Federal safety regulators are investigating reports of front passenger seat airbag failures in roughly 330,000 BMW cars and SUVs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Defect Investigation reports that “the passenger frontal airbag may malfunction and render the passenger airbag inoperative.”

The models that are part of the NHTSA investigation include 2004 to 2006 BMW 5 and 7 series sedans, Z4 convertibles and X3 SUVs, as well as 2006 BMW 3 and 6 series cars and X5 SUVs.

NHTSA said there have been “729 non-duplicating owner reports and 23,739 non-duplicating warranty claims” for faulty airbags in BMW vehicles.

The air bag warning light and the status light for the passenger air bag may come on, indicating an open circuit in a seat sensor, according to the agency. When both lights are on, the air bag will not deploy, NHTSA said.

A ConsumerAffairs.com reader in Arlington, Texas reported an airbag failure in July while driving his 2003 BMW 3521.

“I have a 2003 BMW 352i. Yesterday, a guy ran a red light and hit me on the passenger side. The estimated speed was 45 mph and the air bags did not deploy,” he told us.

A reader in Anderson, South Carolina reported a similar problem in September.

“The air bags did not deploy after a front collision at 25 to 30 mph. The 2001 BMW 325Ci rollover protection deployed but the air bags did not,” she said.

Steve in Leominster, Massachusetts crashed his 1997 BMW 540i into a concrete light poll while traveling at 25 mph.

“The accident did almost $10,000 in damage to my car. I had to be flown to a trauma center. The airbags never deployed,” Steve wrote ConsumerAffairs.com. “BMW takes no responsibility for their vehicles defects,” he complained.

None of the BMWs reported to ConsumerAffairs.com are covered by the NHTSA probe.

The BMW investigation now in progress is called an engineering analysis and is the second step in the safety review process at NHTSA that could eventually lead to a recall.

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