WASHINGTON - Federal safety officials are investigating the side airbags on Volvo cars because of two incidents in which passengers were injured by airbags that deployed when doors were being closed.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the new investigation covers Volvo 850, 960, S70, V70, C70, S90 and V90 cars from model years 1995-98. There are about 362,000 of the cars on the road.
In one incident, a teen-ager's hockey stick got pressed between a closing door and a sensor in the seat frame, and the airbag deployed. In the other, a woman merely closed the door, and the airbag went off, the agency said.
Also, NHTSA is intensifying its investigation of front airbags in 1995 Mazda Miatas because of deployments that occur without crashes.
Agency officials say they are now aware of 21 incidents. One deployment led to a crash in which a person was injured. The agency says nine other people were injured by deploying airbags, including one person who sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Investigators said the same airbag system is in 1996-97 Miatas, but they are not experiencing the same rate of inadvertent deployments.
7 CASES UPGRADED
The Miata case was one of seven that the agency upgraded from a so-called preliminary evaluation to the more serious category of engineering analysis. If evidence of defects is found, several of the cases could lead to recalls of millions of vehicles.
Two cases stem from unexpected fuel spillage during side-impact crash testing rather than from complaints by owners.
One involves 1996-99 DaimlerChrysler minivans. There are more than 2 million on the road. In a side-impact crash test in January, fluid simulating fuel leaked from a 1999 Dodge Caravan when the filler hose broke loose. There was a trace of leakage from an earlier test of a Grand Caravan last December, NHTSA said.
The other case involves some Chevrolet S10 and GMC Sonoma pickups from the 1994-99 model years. There are about 1.3 million trucks covered by the investigation. Simulated fuel leaked from a hole in the tank of a 1999 S10 after a side-impact crash test last November.
The other intensified investigations cover the following:
More than 2.2 million Chevrolet S10 and GMC Sonoma pickups from the 1991-96 model years. There have been 171 complaints that the wire and winch assembly that holds the spare tire under the bed fails and allows the wheel and tire to fall to the ground. The reports include one report of injury.
Nearly 430,000 Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee sport-utilities from the 1992-95 model years because of 118 complaints about corrosion and separation of brake rotors from wheel hubs.
About 355,000 Mercury Villager minivans from the 1993-97 model years because of 85 complaints about underhood fuel leakage. They include four reports of fires, two of them involving injuries. The agency noted that Nissan Quest minivans have the same engines and fuel systems but do not have a similar record of complaints.
More than 16,000 Cadillac Allantes from the 1987-92 model years because of 415 complaints about partial or total loss of brake function. The reports include claims of 29 crashes with 18 injuries and one fatality.
3 CASES CLOSED
NHTSA, in its monthly compilation of defect investigations, said it closed three cases because of insufficient evidence of defects. They included complaints about the following:
Fuel leakage in 1998 Volvo V70 wagons with all-wheel drive.
Front seat-back collapses in 1990-91 Chevrolet Lumina APVs, Oldsmobile Silhouettes and Pontiac Trans Sports.
Front brake hose failures in 1996-97 Ford SVT Mustang Cobras.
In a separate announcement, the agency warned owners of 1994-98 SVT Mustang Cobras that use of metallic aftermarket brake linings in race-track-style driving can cause heat that leads to brake hose failures.
Here are other new defect investigations opened by NHTSA:
1994-96 DODGE INTREPID; EAGLE VISION; CHRYSLER CONCORDE, LHS, NEW YORKER
Problem: Steering failure, either in rack-and-pinion unit or where bushings and bolts attach tie rods to steering gear.
Vehicle population: 819,000.
1998-99 KIA SEPHIA
Problem: Fuel spits back during filling.
Vehicle population: 75,000.