WASHINGTON -- More than 325,000 Hyundai and Kia vehicles are being recalled. Their advanced airbags may not turn off as intended when children are in front passenger seats.
Two related recalls involve 240,000 Hyundai Elantras built for the 2004-05 model years and nearly 74,000 Kia Spectras built after a mid-2004 redesign and during the 2005 model year.
Dealers are to reprogram the vehicles' occupant classification system control units so that a child in a safety seat is not misidentified as an adult passenger.
Officials of Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center Inc. told federal regulators that the misidentification can occur if an adult has used the passenger seat and the ignition switch is not cycled off and on with the seat empty before a child seat is placed there.
In a separate recall, owners of 12,000 Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs built for the 2005 model year are to return them for reprogramming of airbag control units.
A test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that a crash dummy representing a 6-year-old child, in a certain sitting position, was misidentified as an adult. Airbags were not suppressed, as federal rules require.
The technical center, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co., told NHTSA the company believes the vehicles meet federal regulations. But the automaker decided to conduct a recall and provide "an increased margin of compliance," Hyundai officials say.
Rules adopted in 2000 require automakers to phase advanced airbag systems into their vehicles during the 2004-06 model years. One purpose of the systems, also known as smart airbags, is to keep deployments from causing serious or fatal injuries to children in front passenger seats.