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Why Subaru gets hit with another airbag recall for the Impreza compact

According to the NHTSA, Subaru is recalling 32,400 Imprezas to replace the passenger-airbag occupancy sensor. Does it include WRX/STI?

According to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), Subaru will recall 32,400 2012 MY Impreza compact vehicles. This will not include 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX/STI performance models. It will include both sedan and hatchback models.

According to NHSTA filings, the sensor in the Impreza passenger seat can switch the airbag off when an adult is seated or switch it on when no one is in the seat. A capacitance sensor Subaru introduced in 2012 can be tripped if someone uses a cellphone or other electronic device while seated. Water on the seat can also disable the airbag.

NHSTA says it can happen if the passenger’s clothes are damp, or if they touch a grounded part of the vehicle like the seat-adjustment lever. If a cellphone or music player are plugged in to the power outlet, that can even can cause the airbag to activate improperly. If water is spilled on the seat, even after an adult sits down, that can also cause the airbag to be disabled.

These airbag sensors are designed to detect a passenger’s weight, not electrical capacitance. According to a report by Car and Driver, Subaru said the sensor in the Impreza was not programmed properly to filter out these conditions. It has since been reprogrammed in later models.

Recall not related to Takata

This latest Impreza recall is not related to the huge Takata issue that effected 91,151 2004-2007 Impreza models in Japan and 33,548 in Australia. Subaru confirmed to C&D that they only used Takata airbags from 2003–2005 and only for the front passenger.

According to Subaru, 2013 BRZ and 2013 Impreza were equipped with the same occupancy sensor as the 2012 Impreza, but there have been no disclosed complaints by either NHTSA or Subaru, and those models are not part of this recall.

Authorized Subaru Dealers will replace the 2012 Impreza passenger-airbag occupancy sensor at no cost to owners and the 2012 WRX/STI is not effected. No date has been set for the start of the recall.