NHTSA to investigate older GM models for software, airbag glitch

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will investigate whether 320,000 older Chevrolet Impalas have a software defect that might cause airbags to fail to deploy in a crash.

Donald Friedman of Xprts, a Santa Barbara, Calif., company that specializes in automotive crash analysis, sought the investigation in a petition to NHTSA.

Xprts alleges that software in 2004-10 GM models could inaccurately suppress front passenger airbags.

The petition is based on a road-barrier crash in Texas that involved a 2008 Impala. The petition claims that the software failed to properly detect the weight of the car’s two elderly occupants, which led to the passenger airbag failing to deploy before the crash. The front driver-side airbag did deploy. The couple, who both were wearing their seat belts, were injured.

The petition also claims that GM has used the same algorithm since 2003, and that 2004-10 vehicles might be similarly defective. Friedman says an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report and NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System data support his allegation.

GM spokesman Alan Adler told The Detroit News that the automaker “will cooperate with the NHTSA on its request for information.”

GM has recalled 29 million vehicles this year, including a recall of 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars for faulty ignition switches in February. GM has linked the defect to 54 crashes and 13 deaths.

ATTENTION COMMENTERS: Automotive News has monitored a significant increase in the number of personal attacks and abusive comments on our site. We encourage our readers to voice their opinions and argue their points. We expect disagreement. We do not expect our readers to turn on each other. We will be aggressively deleting all comments that personally attack another poster, or an article author, even if the comment is otherwise a well-argued observation. If we see repeated behavior, we will ban the commenter. Please help us maintain a civil level of discourse.

Email Newsletters
  • General newsletters
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Mondays)
  • (As needed)
  • Video newscasts
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Saturdays)
  • Special interest newsletters
  • (Thursdays)
  • (Tuesdays)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Wednesdays)
  • (Bimonthly)
  • Special reports
  • (As needed)
  • (As needed)
  • Communication preferences