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Nissan Recalls Over 1 Million Vehicles Due to Passenger Airbag Issue

March 28, 2014
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Nissan Motor Co. recently issued a recall for over 1 million vehicles, most of which are in the United States. The recall is due to a problem with the software that deploys the front passenger airbag.

The exact number of affected vehicles is 1,053,479. Of that number, 989,701 units were sold in the U.S. and approximately 60,000 units were sold in Canada and other markets.

The affected vehicles are the 2013 and 2014 model year versions of the following: Nissan Altima, Sentra, Pathfinder, and Leaf. Also included are the 2013 model year Nissan NV 200. Some Infiniti units are also part of the recall. These are the 2013 Infiniti JX35 crossovers, the 2014 Infiniti Q50 sedans and QX60 crossovers.

These vehicles follow the first 82,038 Nissan models recalled in February 2013 for airbag sensor issues.

In the documents filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Nissan said that the vehicle occupant classification software could incorrectly identify the passenger seat as empty and therefore deactivate the airbag. Non-deployment of the airbag can increase the risk of an injury in the event of a crash.

The filing also states that Nissan is aware of two accidents wherein the passenger airbag did not deploy but the company is unsure whether these are related to the software issue. However, the automaker acknowledged one crash wherein the vehicle’s data recorder incorrectly determined the passenger seat as empty and continued to receive warranty claims for defective airbag sensors after the first recall. After the agency questioned Nissan last fall, the company bought back four cars from their customers to identify the problem.

The main problem are the front passenger seat airbag sensors. These detect pressure on the seat cushion when someone sits on the passenger seat. The sensors are also those which determine if the airbags should or should not be activated. Unfortunately, these can falsely identify the seat as unoccupied and deactivate the airbag if the passenger sits down when there are high engine idling vibrations and when the passenger assumes an unusual sitting posture.

There are no reported deaths or injuries related to the problem at this time.

Nissan has already developed a new sensor algorithm for their vehicles on the production line. The airbag sensor issue will be addressed by updating the software in the affected vehicles. The new algorithm will properly account for engine vibrations at idle as well as unusual sitting position.

NHTSA documents suggest that the automaker will start updating the software free of charge in mid-April.

Nissan’s recall comes at a time when General Motors is still hogging the auto industry’s headlines for its massive faulty ignition switch recall and after Toyota agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine to settle a criminal fraud charge related to the unintended acceleration recall it issued in 2008 and 2009.

Recalls are common, and all automakers have issued one. According to the NHTSA, the auto industry recalled more vehicles than it sold last year. There were 22 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. in 2013.

Photo credit: nissanusa.com

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