Faulty airbag sensors have afflicted a number of automakers in recent years, and German automaker Audi is the latest one affected. Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen Group of America, has announced it will recall 144,092 Audi vehicles in the U.S. to fix malfunctioning passenger-side airbag occupant sensors, according to an online article in Automotive News Europe.
The recall covers certain 2018 Audi S5 and A5 vehicles, along with some 2017-2018 A4s. The problem is caused by oxidation on the connecting cable of the passenger occupant detection system, which can cause software to fail to detect occupants and disable the passenger airbag.
The report quoted one owner of a 2017 Audi A4 as saying in a complaint to the NHTSA, "With an adult in the passenger seat a warning message says that because of a malfunction, the airbags are turned off. A few seconds to a minute or two later, another message says the airbags are on. This sequence can appear many times in an hour of driving or not appear at all for several days."
His dealer told him the airbags "really are off" when the warning notification appears, the Audi owner wrote in the complaint.
According to the Automotive News Europe article, a spokesman for Audi said in an emailed statement that 26,040 vehicles in Canada also are being recalled.
"The recall is in response to an oversensitivity of the passenger occupant detection system (PODS) connecting cable in the instance of a partial surface oxidation of the electrical shielding in the cable harness," the statement said. "If this happens, the PODS will detect a malfunction and switch off the passenger airbag even though the seat may be occupied.
"As designed, a warning light in the instrument panel comes on together with a warning sound and an error message is displayed in the instrument cluster," the statement also said. "The airbag indicator light shows 'passenger airbag off.' If this happens, customers are advised to contact an authorized Audi dealer to have the vehicle inspected/repaired without delay."
The manufacturer of the malfunctioning PODS, IEE of Luxembourg, did not respond to requests for comment.
Last month, Jeep recalled over 41,000 of its 2019 Cherokee SUVs because faulty sensors could fail to activate the airbags in a crash, according to an online report in Consumer Reports. Also, owners of Hyundai and Kia vehicles initiated a class action lawsuit alleging that airbags manufactured by ZF TRW failed to deploy in a crash, according to an online article in Rings of Fire.
And in April, a USA Today report said that NHTSA was investigating malfunctioning sensors in 12.3 million ZF TRW airbags installed in vehicles from Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, in addition to Hyundai and Kia.