Hyundai, Kia cars probed for faulty airbags

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United States authorities are reportedly looking into airbag failures in recent deadly crashes of Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

Hyundai recalled almost 155,000 Sonatas after determining electrical overstress caused the airbags to fail to inflate in three of the crashes. NHTSA is investigating whether vehicles made by other carmakers also may be at risk.

Ko estimated the US recall could cost as much as $575 million if air bags were replaced in 425,000 vehicles under review and the automakers were found responsible for the problem.

"If there is a component in the module that is used by other systems as well, that number could increase significantly", said Keith Friedman, automotive safety researcher at Friedman Research Corp.in Austin, Texas, in a telephone interview Sunday. Kia said it has not confirmed problems with the air bags but added it would "act promptly to conduct a safety recall, if it determines that a recall would be appropriate".

Shares of Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. plunged Monday as the US probe into airbag-related accidents raised worries over potential recall costs for the carmakers. A Hyundai spokesperson told A.P. that the problem occurred in "rare high-speed head-on collisions offset from the center of the vehicles".

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Hyundai said in a statement that the air bag control circuitry was damaged in three crashes and a fourth crash is under investigation.

The Korean companies said they're cooperating in the probe.

Shares of Hyundai Motor affiliates lost ground, with Kia Motors losing 2.8 percent and Hyundai Mobis down 5.4 percent.

Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-biggest carmaker by sales, sold a total of 163,637 vehicles in the U.S.in the January-February period, down 8 percent from 177,826 units a year earlier.

In the documents, NHTSA said it understands that the Kia Fortes under investigation use similar air bag control computers made by ZF-TRW.

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