Federal safety regulators announced they’re opening an investigation into the effectiveness of a recall of nearly 1 million vehicles by Nissan Motor Co. due to an airbag problem.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking Nissan’s recall of about 989,000 vehicles in March 2014 because the occupant classification system software may not recognize if an adult is sitting in the passenger seat.
The impacted vehicles in include: 2013-2014 Altima, Leaf, Pathfinder, and Sentra, 2013 NV200, 2013 Infiniti JX35 and 2014 Infiniti Q50 and QX60 vehicles.
There have been 124 complaints about the system after the repairs were completed by Nissan dealers. Most of the complaints claim the passenger airbag status light remains lit, which indicates the airbag is turned off.
Some vehicle owners tell NHTSA that dealers have made multiple repairs to the cars but the problem persists.
“The passenger airbag turns off when a passenger is in the seat,” one complaint states. “It is not always immediate and does not happen every time it is driven. It has had two recalls from this issue and this will be the eleventh time it has been into the dealership for this same thing.”
NHTSA says that it has received no reports of injuries or accidents as a result of the issue.
In the initial action, Nissan said the problem was due a combination of high engine vibration at idle when the seat is unoccupied and then someone sits in it or whomever does occupy the seat sits in an unusual position.
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In 2013, Nissan recalled 82,000 2013 Altima, Leaf, Pathfinder, Sentra, and Infiniti JX35 vehicles because of a strain gauge sensor manufacturing issue within the Occupant Detection System. While warranty claims dropped, the automaker still received complaints. That triggered a string of actions by the automaker to try to resolve the problem.
Ultimately, Nissan traced the problem to a software issue and used a calibration change in the production models in February 2014 to solve the problem and then put out the recall for the existing models with the issue.
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In October 2013, while Nissan said it had not concluded that the issue was a safety defect, the automaker “initiated a process to improve the OCS algorithm parameters for production vehicles. These production running changes were ultimately adopted across applicable models by mid-February of 2014.”
At the same time, Nissan learned of two incidents where the passenger air bag did not deploy and the passenger air bag status light was not illuminated. The investigation showed that the system classified the seat as empty and the passenger air bag did not deploy, when according to the reports, the seat was occupied.
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In mid-February 2014, Nissan implemented a software calibration change in production vehicles. “Nissan determined that the above-mentioned concerns would be resolved by the OCS algorithm parameter changes that had been made in production” and issued the recall for 989,000 vehicles.