In September, we wrote a story highlighting seven different reports of Chevy Colorado side curtain airbags deploying on easy off-road trails, leaving owners with non-functional seatbelt pretensioners and air bags hanging from A-pillars. Now Chevrolet has issued a fix that it doesn’t call a recall, but rather a “customer-satisfaction initiative.”
Mentioned on a ZR2 owner’s Facebook group and sent to Jalopnik by a gentleman featured in our initial ZR2 airbag story, the program is titled “Unwanted Roof-Rail Air Bag Deployments While Off-Roading,” and covers 2017 to 2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 models only. GM’s description on its recall center website reads:
In 2017 - 2019 model year Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 vehicles, certain types of off-road use can, in rare cases, cause the vehicle’s roof-rail airbags and seatbelt pretensioners to deploy.
As for a repair, the company says dealerships will reprogram a “sensing and diagnostic module” with new software. A Chevrolet representative provided a bit more information on the repair in an email to Jalopnik, writing:
Upon learning of this issue, Chevrolet took immediate action to understand the root cause and create a solution. Today, we notified Chevrolet dealers of a customer-satisfaction initiative to recalibrate the thresholds for the roof mounted side air bags for ZR2 owners. The updated calibration is available as of today, and will be installed free of charge the next time the customers takes their ZR2 to a Chevrolet dealer.
The company was sure to mention that this is technically not a recall, but rather a “customer-satisfaction initiative,” with the representative clarifying:
A safety recall is a regulatory requirement, issued when there is a defect that results in an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.
Customer satisfaction campaigns are issued to fix quality concerns that don’t rise to that threshold, but that we still want to fix for the benefit of the customer.
In both cases, the customer will get a letter directing them to contact the dealer to schedule repairs.
The company also said it’s aware of 11 reports of ZR2 roof-mounted airbags deploying while off-road, and that it will reimburse those customers for the repair “provided the event data was available to confirm the incident.” I’m still working to clarify what this means.
I’m also looking into why the standard Colorado doesn’t seem to be covered, as Edmunds says its Z71 model popped its airbags while traveling on a “groomed fire road at breakneck speeds ranging from five to seven miles an hour.”
So it’s perhaps not an official NHSTA safety recall, even if it does involve side airbags inflating when they shouldn’t, and even if it does involve repairing cars free of charge and reimbursing owners who have already conducted repairs. But it sure as heck sounds like a product recall to me. In any case, it’s good news for ZR2 owners who’ve had their airbags deploy off-road, and also owners who have been tippy-toeing through the trails for fear of hearing that loud pop.
Update Nov. 8, 2018 4:34 PM E.T. Chevrolet clarified that “provided the event data was available to confirm the incident” refers to data that the company’s technicians can pull from a vehicle to confirm that it experienced an undesired side curtain airbag deployment.
The brand also mentioned that their fix won’t necessarily work 100 percent of the time, and that it depends on off-road driving conditions, writing in an email:
As you probably understand from your readers, it may not be possible to get to zero unintended deployments for any vehicle used for off-road driving. The roof-rail airbag sensors read vehicle motion, not impact like other airbags, and there may always be roll motions that the vehicle reads as an impending rollover. But the updated calibration should significantly reduce the likelihood of an unintended deployment.