On April 29, 2019, Lieff Cabraser and Baron & Budd filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in California on behalf of consumers across the U.S. against Hyundai Motor America, Kia Motor America, and ZF-TRW Automotive Holding Corp. over defective vehicle airbags that fail to operate during crashes due to electrical overstress (“EOS”). As detailed in the Complaint, a defect in the application-specific integrated circuit (“ASIC”) built into the airbags causes a failure in the Airbag Control Unit that prevents the airbags and the seat belt pretensioners, both vital to maximizing safety in a vehicle crash, from deploying. As the Complaint further alleges, ZF-TRW, Hyundai, and Kia became aware of the ACU defect as early as 2011, but did nothing to protect consumers or warn of the product dangers until 2018.
The lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia followed widespread reports that over 12 million vehicles in the U.S. from Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, Honda, FiatChrysler, and Toyota with ZF-TRW airbags have defective and unsafe Airbag Control Units (ACUs) that prevent airbags and seatbelt pretensioners from deploying and activating during a crash. Multiple incidents have been reported, including at least one that led to a fatality.
The allegedly defective ACUs are manufactured by TRW Automotive Inc. (a subsidiary of German auto parts maker ZF). The full list to date of vehicles involved with the ZF-TRW defect appears below.
The ACU units are supposed to detect crashes and deploy the airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners. However, the TRW ACUs suffer from electrical overstress in crash conditions, and this can cause the airbags and seat belt pretensioners to fail to operate, greatly increasing the risk of injury. Reports indicate there are no warning signs of the problem, so owners and lessees have no way of knowing the airbag and belt failures will happen.