Hyundai filed documents last week with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicating the company would recall some 230,000 Elantras and Accents for a somewhat unusual problem: a seat belt pretensioner that can explode.
Hyundai said it’s aware of three incidents involving malfunctioning seat belt pretensioners. The first is described thusly:
On September 15, 2021, [NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation] informed HMA’s NASO of a crash incident involving a model year 2021 Hyundai Elantra vehicle where the driver-side seat belt pretensioner allegedly deployed abnormally causing metal fragments to enter the rear cabin and resulting in injury to an occupant’s leg. NHTSA was notified of the incident by a law firm representing the operator of the incident vehicle. The law firm also notified HMA’s external counsel on the same day, who then alerted HMA’s Legal department of the incident.
The second incident, meanwhile, involved a 2020 Elantra in Puerto Rico, while the third involved a 2022 Elantra in Singapore. A subsequent investigation led Hyundai to pinpoint the cause of the issue.
On March 28, 2022, investigative teams from NASO, HMC, and the supplier inspected the Puerto Rico incident Accent vehicle and found the crash pulse and duration data retrieved from the EDR compared similarly to the Singapore incident Elantra vehicle’s crash data. Based on this information, HMC determined that the pretensioners used in the subject Elantra and Accent vehicles could exhibit unique deployment characteristics when compared to other models using the same pretensioners. The differences are largely attributed to variation in the pretensioner’s load limiter specifications and vehicle-specific air bag control unit (“ACU”) logic, with crash severity/duration also being a contributing factor.
In April 2022, Hyundai retained Exponent, a third-party engineering firm, conduct metallurgical analyses on the connection between the micro gas generator and pretensioner used in the subject Elantra and Accent vehicles and identify potential areas of stress and fracture initiation sites during deployment. On April 20, 2022, NASO provided an update of Hyundai’s investigation to NHTSA’s ODI.
On April 25, 2022, HMC informed NASO of recent testing by design affiliates and the supplier that were successful in replicating the abnormal deployment condition in the subject Elantra and Accent vehicles. HMC also informed NASO of a potential remedy which would secure the micro gas generator connection with a cap and eliminate stress sites that could potentially increase the risk of an abnormal deployment. In subsequent testing, Exponent was able confirm the effectiveness of the cap in mitigating this risk.
On May 11, a final decision was made on the recall, which affects 2019-2022 Hyundai Accents and 2021-2023 Hyundai Elantras. Hyundai said it will notify owners by July 15, and dealers will install the fix for free. I, for one, did not have “exploding seat belt pretensioners” on my recall bingo card, but maybe you did, in which case congrats.