Volkswagen Recalls 420,000 Vehicles Over Non-Deployment Of Airbags

Automakers have recalled more vehicles for airbag issues in the last year than many of us can keep track of. Today, Volkswagen joined the long list, calling back some 420,000 sedans equipped with airbags that may not deploy.

The car manufacturer announced today that it would recall thousands of model year 2010 to 2014 Volkswagen CC, Passat, and Tiguan, model year 2010 to 2013 Eos and Jetta, model year 2011 to 2014 Golf and GTI, and model year 2011 to 2013 Jetta Sportwagen vehicles.

According to a notice [PDF] filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, debris has been found to contaminate the airbag clock spring – a cable that keeps the airbag powered while the steering wheel is being turned.

If debris is present, the cable could tear, leading to a loss of electrical connection to the driver’s frontal airbag, preventing the safety device from deploying in the event of a crash.

The recall comes five months after NHTSA first opened an investigation into airbag issues in Volkswagen Passat and CC models.

NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigation opened the probe [PDF] into the vehicles after receiving nine consumer complaints alleging airbag failures.

The consumer reports indicated that failures occurred during normal driving conditions and were sometimes accompanied by an audible noise from the steering column. In some cases, the airbag error light on the dash was activated.

“Upon pulling out of my driveway and turning the steering wheel there was a cracking noise and then the airbag light went off with an airbag warning,” one complaint from January 2015 reads. “At which point all mechanisms within the steering wheel stopped working.”

According to a chronology [PDF] filed with NHTSA, Volkswagen knew about the issue several years before NHTSA initiated its investigation.

The company received its first report of issues with the airbags back in December 2011. An initial evaluation in May 2012 found a low failure rate and no impact on vehicle safety.

Almost three years later, in March 2015, NHTSA opened its investigation. Just months later in July, the manufacturer met with regulators, where NHTSA explained its risk assessment of the vehicles and demanded notification of defects in the safety devices.

Volkswagen says it has yet to identify a fix for the problem, but say that since 2012 there have been improvements to the clock spring.