2012 Hyundai Elantra airbag slices off driver's ear, spurs federal investigation
The NHTSA opened this investigation after one owner complained that when his driver’s side curtain airbag opened during an accident, it pulled with it a metal bracket that impacted the side of the driver’s head – cutting his face and severing half of his ear. There has been no indication as to what type of metal bracket was involved but the complainant submitted pictures of the car after the accident showing the piece of metal – which the NHTSA has already determined to have been responsible for the terrible laceration on the driver’s head and face. However, neither the NHTSA nor Hyundai have yet had a chance to examine the specific Elantra involved in the accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will test the 2012 Hyundai Elantra to see if this metal bracket coming out with the driver’s side curtain airbag is something that is experienced in more than one vehicle. If the NHTSA can replicate the problem, they will begin an engineering analysis to see what exactly is causing the metal bracket to move with the side curtain airbag. Should the feds find that this problem could occur on other vehicles – we can expect that a recall will be issued in a hurry as to prevent any more injuries due to this problem.
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra went on sale late last year and over 123,000 examples of the new compact sedan have been sold since then. Should the NHTSA find that there is an engineering, assembly or design flaw that is causing this metal bracket to travel with the side curtain airbag when it opens, the feds will likely mandate that Hyundai recall these 123,000+ vehicles. However, the NHTSA has only receive this one complaint and Hyundai has not experienced this problem with other Elantra models during testing so this could be an unfortunate one-time event for the owner who lost part of his ear.
The fact that the Korean automaker has sold more than 123,000 2012 Elantra models and this is the only instance of the metal bracket coming loose and injuring a driver or passenger seems to indicate that it is an isolated incident that was specific to that particular car. Either the prolem exists in other 2012 Hyundai Elantra but the drivers who have been in accidents where the side curtain airbag opened were lucky not to sustain injury or the man injured in April who filed the complaint has very bad luck.