Nissan Recalling 2013-2014 Models Over Faulty Airbag Software

Nissan has announced the recall of nearly one million vehicles, including 544,000 Altima sedans over faulty front passenger-side airbags that may fail to deploy in an accident.  The action brings the number of major auto recalls this year to five, including General Motors Company’s high profile recall of 1.3 million vehicles to replace faulty ignition switches.

Included in this most recent recall are model years 2013 – 14 Nissans, including about 29,000 Leaf electric vehicles, 124,000 Pathfinder sport SUVs, 183,000 Sentras and 6,700 NV200 taxis. Infiniti models affected by the action include 64,000 2013 JX35 and 2014 QX60 models and 40,000 2014 Q50 sedans.

In a statement to the NHTSA Nissan said a problem with the software that determines the occupant classification – adult or small child – may be causing the airbag system to calibrate incorrectly, especially in situations when “a combination of factors such as high engine vibration at idle when the seat is initially empty and then becomes occupied” or when an adult passenger has an “unusual” seating posture.

Nissan says it is aware of three separate incidents in which the front passenger-side airbag failed to deploy during accidents when the seat was occupied.  In an email Nissan spokesman Steve Yaeger said the company is not aware of any fatalities caused by the malfunction, and that he does not know of any injuries resulting from the defect.

Nissan is the fourth major automaker to recall vehicles this year.  Some consumer advocates and safety groups have accused General Motors Company of negligence for taking so long to recall 1.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small models to replace defective ignition switches that have been linked to at least 12 deaths.  GM has also recalled 1.3 million SUVs suspected of having defective air bag systems.  Toyota and Honda have also announced massive recalls since the first of the year.

Approximately one year ago Nissan recalled about 82,000 2013 model year vehicles to repair faulty front passenger-side airbag strain gauge sensors that could prevent the devices from deploying in the event of an accident.  Nissan has not said whether these same vehicles will be included in the current recall action, although the automaker has received complaints about the problem since completing last year’s recall.  Last September, the automaker denied that the problems described in the complaints were the result of equipment malfunctions, and instead blamed “out-of-position occupants.”

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