Toyota is recalling nearly 3 million 2011-2019 vehicles in the U.S. for faulty airbag control units that can result in airbags not deploying in crashes.

The Japanese automaker said in a Jan. 21 announcement that the ZF-TRW airbags made by TRW may fail to interpret or receive the correct signals from crash sensors in certain types of crashes. Toyota says that one type of collision that may cause this failure is an underride crash, in which a vehicle become wedged underneath a larger vehicle. Most underride crashes involve passenger cars and tractor-trailers.

toyota sudden unintended acceleration Toyota recalls 2.9 million vehicles, says airbags may not deploy in some crashesAdditionally, the same electronic interference that confuses the airbag control unit can cause the seatbelt pretensioners to fail. In such a case, the seat belt fails to tighten in a collision. Both airbag nondeployment and seatbelt failure can drastically increase the severity of injury in a crash.

Toyota is recalling 2.9 vehicles in the U.S. and an additional half a million vehicles outside the U.S. to correct the problem. In the U.S., vehicles recalled are:

  • 2011 to 2019 Corolla sedans
  • 2011 to 2013 Matrix hatchbacks
  • 2012 to 2018 Avalon sedans
  • 2013 to 2018 Avalon Hybrid sedans

To correct the defect, Toyota dealers will inspect the electronic control unit and, if needed, install a noise filter between the airbag control module and its wire harness connecting it to the vehicle’s electrical systems to prevent electronic interference. The repairs will be performed at no charge to owners of the affected vehicles.

According to Consumer Reports, the automaker would not confirm or deny whether there have been any crashes or fatalities associated with the ZF-TRW airbag defect. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation has identified two “substantial frontal crash events” involving Toyota Corolla sedans that may be related to the recall condition. One of those crashes resulted in a death.

NHTSA has been investigating the ZF-TRW airbag control unit, which has been blamed for similar problems in other vehicle brands and models. Fiat-Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Hyundai and Kia have issued recalls previously for vehicles equipped with the same electronic control unit. A class action lawsuit against Toyota claims that NTSA’s investigation has linked the faulty airbag control units in Toyota vehicles to at least four deaths.

Toyota will notify owners of vehicles affected by this recall by mid-March 2020. Owners can reach Toyota customer service at 888-270-9371.

Beasley Allen investigates claims involving auto products liability that result in a crash with catastrophic injuries or death. Very often when investigating a vehicle crash in which the injuries seem to vastly outweigh the expected outcome of the crash, a defective auto product is found to blame. For more information about these claims, contact Chris Glover in the firm’s Atlanta office, or Greg Allen in our Montgomery office.

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