Continental Airbags Recalled
Documents released by U.S. regulators indicated that the airbags in question were built between 2006 and 2010 and installed in a number of automobiles during manufacturing for model years 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Affected auto models with the Continental airbags include:
- 2008-2009 Chrysler Town & Country
- 2008-2009 Dodge Grand Caravan
- 2009 Dodge Journey
- 2008-2010 Honda Accord
- 2008-2009 Mercedes C Class
- 2010 Mercedes GLK Class
- 2009 Volkswagen Routan
Though the problems were discovered in a series of events beginning in 2008, a full-scale recall was not issued until 2016 when the NHTSA recalled about 5 million vehicles due to Continental airbags.
This airbag recall event is separate from the Takata airbag recall which has affected 25 million vehicles and may have resulted in numerous deaths. The continental airbag malfunction involves the possibility of airbags failing to deploy.
Airbag Control Units Faulty
Continental Automotive systems, a division of Continental AG manufactured the airbags which employed electronic control units from Atmel Corp. The problem was initially discovered in 2008 when an owner of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle reported that a warning light indicating malfunctioning airbags would not go off. The airbag was removed and sent to Continental who examined the unit and forwarded it to Atmel.
Atmel then determined that the power supply could be interrupted in the event of corrosion. A design change was implemented which included changes to internal control unit components in the application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC).
The ASIC is part of the electronic system which is used as a decision point for the airbag system to determine if a passenger is a child or adult, allowing the system to know whether an airbag should be deployed or not during a crash. In the case of the Continental airbags, corrosion of the semiconductor material could result in improper deployment or failure of the airbag to deploy in a crash.
Continental reports that 3 million control units were manufactured between 2006 and 2008 when a design change was made. An additional 2 million units were manufactured until a second design change was implemented in 2010. Automobiles affected by the Continental Airbag recall all employed units manufactured prior to the second design change in 2010. After the second change, no new complaints have been reported.
Though it appears as if Continental Automotive and the automakers knew about the problems with the airbag, recalls were not issued in the United States until after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) got involved.
NHTSA opened an investigation in August 2015 based on a complaint regarding a 2015 crash involving a 2008 Honda Accord in which the airbag did not deploy. Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz issued a recall of some vehicles in October of 2015 and in 2016, NHTSA issued a recall of all affected vehicles.
Timeline of Continental Airbag Events
Knowledge of the Continental airbag deployment failures began in 2008 or earlier.
January 2008 – Customer reported an airbag complaint due to a safety light which would not go off. Defective airbag control unit with illuminated warning light from Mercedes-Benz vehicle sent to Continental who determined that power supply module had malfunctioned and forwarded unit to Atmel Corp. manufacturer of control unit
March 2008 – Atmel tests airbag control module and finds power supply may be interrupted of corrosion occurs. Atmel implements procedures including a design change to a semiconducter to reduce likelihood of corrosion occurring in future control units.
February 2011 – Continental learns of two unintended airbag deployments in Daimler and Fiat Chrysler vehicles.
August 2011 – Continental determines unintentional airbag deployments were related to corrosion of power supply components in airbag control units
March 2013 – Daimler starts service campaign outside of the U.S. to address corrosion of units which caused prior airbag malfunction. Service campaign is not an actual recall and is not conducted inside of the U.S.
April 2015 – American Honda, U.S. unit of Honda Motor Co. requests that Continental perform analysis of airbag control module that had been involved in a 2013 accident of a 2008 Honda Accord and was the subject of a lawsuit.
July 2015 – Continental determines power supply component in the 2013 accident of the 2008 Honda Accord had malfunctioned. On the same day, NHTSA asks company to analyze another 2008 Honda Accord airbag control module from a March 2015 accident.
August 18, 2015 – NHTSA opens investigation of airbags in 2008 to 2010 Honda Accord sedans.
September 9, 2015 – Continental completes analysis of 2015 crash airbag control unit, compares to 2013 crash unit.
September 28, 2015 – Atmel confirms power supply component of airbags had malfunctioned.
October 27, 2015 – Daimler Mercedes-Benz recalls 126,000 vehicles from 2008 to 2010 model years.
January 15, 2016 – Honda informs Continental that safety-related defect is present in airbag control modules of some Accord models from 2008 to 2009 is same defect in Mercedes-Benz vehicles
Continental Airbag Lawsuit Filed
While the 2015 crash appears to have been the trigger for initiating NHTSA involvement, previous action had been taken regarding the airbags around the world. In 2013, Daimler had started a service campaign outside of the U.S. A service campaign is not a recall but encourages car owners to get their automobiles checked. No U.S. recall was issued by Continental or by automakers until several years after discovery.
Now, Continental, Atmel and the automakers involved in the airbag recalls are facing hundreds or even thousands of lawsuits filed by automobile owners who were placed at risk and may have suffered financial losses due to the malfunctioning airbags.
Vehicle owners whose cars utilized airbags manufactured by Continental Automotive, built between 2006 and 2010 for model years 2008-2010, may have airbags that can deploy inappropriately or fail to deploy in the event of a crash. These vehicles are subject to recall but some owners are filing lawsuits against Continental, Atmel and automakers Mercedes-Benz/Daimler, Dodge/Chrysler/Fiat Chrysler, and Honda.
If you were affected by the Continental Automotive airbag recall, you may be eligible for compensation through a continental airbag lawsuit.