Second Company Probed for Air Bag Inflator Malfunctions

July 14, 2015 Updated: July 14, 2015

DETROIT— The problem of air bag inflators that can rupture and spew shrapnel into drivers and passengers could be widening beyond Japanese manufacturer Takata Corp.

U.S. safety regulators are investigating inflators made by ARC Automotive Inc. that went into about 420,000 older Fiat Chrysler Town and Country minivans and another 70,000 Kia Optima midsize sedans.

The probe, revealed in documents posted Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, comes just weeks after Takata agreed to recall 33.8 million inflators in the U.S. in the largest automotive recall in American history. At least eight people have been killed worldwide by flying shrapnel from Takata inflators, and more than 100 injured.

The safety agency said it received a complaint in December about a 2009 incident in a 2002 Chrysler minivan but determined it was an isolated case involving an ARC inflator. Then in June, Kia told the agency about a lawsuit involving a 2004 Optima with an ARC inflator, so the agency decided to open an investigation. Both cases are the only known incidents involving ARC inflators in vehicles made by either automaker.

“At the present time it is unknown if there is a common root cause in these incidents,” NHTSA investigators wrote in the documents. “(The agency) is opening this investigation in order to collect all known facts from the involved suppliers and vehicle manufacturers.”

The agency said two people were hurt in the incidents but no one was killed.

Messages were left before business hours seeking comment from ARC, Fiat Chrysler and Kia.