A nationwide Channel 4 I-Team investigation found while the sensors that trigger passenger side air bags have repeatedly been recalled across the country, one make of vehicle is experiencing the problem but the manufacturer refuses to fix it.
The Channel 4 I-Team found in the database of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that since 2005, there have been 14 separate recalls pertaining to more than 20 vehicles in the United States, all because of failures or interferences with the passenger side air bag sensors, also known as passenger presence modules.
"A whole host of manufacturers have recalled these devices, in a variety of modules, over a number of years. They (the sensors) haven't met the grade in terms of being long term and durable," said Sean Kane with the automotive watchdog group Safety Research & Strategies.
The Channel 4 I-Team found drivers of a Saturn vehicle reporting all over the country that the passenger presence modules are failing, but General Motors has not issued a recall and will not fix the failures.
In Mobile, AL, Rick Leslie loves to drive his 2007 Saturn Sky, but doesn't like anyone actually riding in his passenger seat because a mechanic told him his passenger side airbags would not deploy in a crash.
"I don't want to see anybody get hurt. It's a safety thing," Leslie said.
In Nashville, Ken Hicks loves his 2007 Saturn Sky as well, but was wary of anyone riding in his passenger seat a mechanic told him the sensors that trigger his passenger side airbags were not working.
"Had I had a passenger with me, and had an accident, the airbag for the passenger would not have deployed," Hicks said.
Leslie and Hicks are among the drivers who complained to GM and NHTSA about the warning lights indicating problems with the passenger side airbags, only to hear that GM refuses to recall or pay to fix the problems because the cars are no longer under warranty.
Hicks, who works outside the news department at WSMV, showed us his bill of $842.12. He had to pay the amount out of pocket to fix the problem.
"GM decided that because the car was out of warranty they were not going to cover it. And I insisted they should cover it because this is a safety issue," Hicks said.
Alan Adler, a spokesman for GM, would not address our questions on camera, but did send an email, stating in part, "There is no active safety investigation into the Saturn Sky for any air bag issue ... the cost of the repair, which is not covered because most, if not all, of these vehicles are out of manufacturer warranty."
"This is a problem that has a significant effect on safety, it hasn't been recalled, and it should be," Kane said.
Kane said the latest issue with the passenger presence module in the 2007 Saturn Sky is more indication that there are real problems with the devices.
NHTSA's database shows even GM recalled 12 types of vehicles in 2006 when aftermarket leather seats caused the sensors to malfunction.
The GM spokesman would not confirm which manufacturer made the sensors, all the part reads is that it was made in Luxembourg and there is no mention of who made the sensors in the other recalled vehicles.
The drivers of the 2007 Saturn Sky are wondering if so many other recalls have been issued pertaining to the sensors, why haven't theirs been recalled as well.
"I think it's a huge problem. Anytime you have a safety item where people could be hurt, something that could be easily fixed, I think it should be fixed," Leslie said.
If you see anything on your computer that indicates to service your air bags, make sure to take your car into a mechanic or dealership immediately.
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