Kia begins 73,000-unit Rio recall due to air bag malfunction

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This is an example of the 2006-2009 Kia Rio model design.

A 2006 Kia Rio. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Bull-Doser/Wikipedia)

Malfunctioning passenger air bags have prompted Kia to recall nearly 73,000 Kia Rio models from the years 2006 through 2008. The air bags can reportedly malfunction and deploy in a non-accident situation, potentially endangering a smaller passenger in the front passenger seat.

Faulty sensor can cause child safeguard to fail

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published Kia’s letter of intent Tuesday to enact the vehicle recall, reports the New York Times. Kia informed the NHTSA that the airbag problem was traced to a sensor within the passenger seat, a sensor that is intended to discern whether a child or adult is in the seat.

As the front passenger seat is used over time, however, the repeated flexing can cause the printed circuit within the seat to fail. This in turn can make it possible for the air bag to deploy if the vehicle becomes involved in a crash.

“The front passenger seat occupant sensor mat can experience fatigue cracking,” noted the NHTSA in its report. “If sufficient cracking occurs, the occupant classification system will cease to function such that the system will not be able to detect whether a child passenger is in the seat and the airbag will deploy during a crash necessitating deployment. Airbag deployment with a child in the front passenger seat increases the risk of injury to that child.”

A ‘high repair trend’

In August 2011, the NHTSA informed Kia that it had detected a “high repair trend” among Kia Rio owners, and wished to determine whether a safety issue was involved.

Considering that Kia has reportedly had other problems with seat sensors, the prospect of additional issues did not seem out of the realm of the impossibility. In September 2011, for instance, Kia recalled around 10,600 Sorento crossovers from model years 2007 and 2008 because seat sensors could fail when an adult was in the seat, preventing the adult in the front passenger seat from receiving the protection of the air bag in the event of a crash. That recall came a full two years after the NHTSA initiated investigation, and Kia was reportedly resistant leading up to the recall announcement, claiming that the problem was not a malfunction, but adult passengers who were not center upon the seat cushion, says Automotive News.

Rather than becoming embroiled in “a protracted dispute” with the NHTSA, Kia submitted to a formal recall request for the 2007 and 2008 Sorentos. The Kia Rio recall is voluntary.

What to do with your 2006 through 2008 Kia Rio

While Kia has claimed that it does not know of any injuries resulting from the passenger air bag malfunction, Rio owners are advised to see a free replacement for the seat sensor, which Kia dealerships will begin providing in July. For more information, Rio owners are encouraged to contact Kia at 800-333-4542.

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Detroit Free Press

Edmunds Inside Line

New York Times

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