Lieff Cabraser attorney David Stellings told Automotive News Wednesday that he hopes the suit will force the automakers and ZF to fix the airbag defect in all affected vehicles and fairly compensate their buyers.
"This case fundamentally is about a breach of the public's trust," he said. "We all expect seat belts and airbags to work properly whenever we or our family members drive or ride in a car. The most outrageous part of ZF-TRW's and the carmakers' behavior is that airbags and seat belts exist for only one reason: to protect passengers from being hurt in a crash.
"The defective ZF-TRW airbag and seat belt system the automakers installed in these cars do exactly the opposite — they stop working when the car crashes," he said.
Stellings said the law firms have a team investigating the safety issue in the belief that it "affects millions of people." The suit incorporates recent information from NHTSA, the nation's top auto safety regulator, which is conducting an engineering analysis of ZF-TRW airbag control units also supplied to other automakers.
"More information is pouring in daily, and the case very well may change to include other carmarkers that sold dangerous cars," Stellings said.
Hyundai spokesman Michael Stewart told Automotive News Thursday that "Hyundai has conducted an extensive evaluation of this issue and is confident that they have recalled every Hyundai vehicle with ZF-TRW ACUs that are susceptible to electrical over stress."
Stewart said Hyundai continues to work closely and cooperate fully with NHTSA's ongoing investigation.
"In 2018, we recalled approximately 580,000 2011-2013 Hyundai Sonata and 2011-2012 Sonata Hybrid vehicles to address potential circuit damage to the ZF TRW airbag control unit electronics that can occur during an accident and result in airbag nondeployment," he said. "When a vehicle is brought in for the recall repair, the Hyundai dealer will install an external wire filter kit that will prevent electrical over stress in the airbag control unit. This is performed at no cost to the customer."
A spokesman for Kia Motors America and a spokesman for ZF-TRW separately declined to comment on the pending litigation.