Hyundai, Kia probed by USA for cars that led to four deaths

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United States road safety authority said that defective airbags in certain vehicles of South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia have been under investigation, after auto crashes in the USA killed four.

The agency stated it was reviewing 425,000 2012-2013 Kia Forte and 2011 Hyundai Sonata cars. Hyundai will recall 155,000 Sonatas on February 27, but more may be to follow if the problem continues.

The investigation launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to raise the number of vehicles that Hyundai might have to recall.

The automakers told the South Korean regulator that the Sonata and Forte models sold in the domestic market were not affected, an official at South Korea's transport ministry told Reuters.

The problem leads to electrical circuit shorts in air bag control computers made by parts supplier ZF-TRW. NHTSA is investigating whether vehicles made by other carmakers may also be at risk. The probe comes after six crashes - four with the Sonata and two with the Forte - left four dead and six injured when the frontal airbags in those vehicles failed to deploy.

Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor said the problem occurred in rare head-on collisions that were offset from the center of the vehicles.

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"It's very unusual to have that kind of collision", he said Saturday.

"We certainly would do everything we can to help our customers", he said.

Kia is partially owned by Hyundai, and together they form the world's fifth largest automaking group.

Under the investigation, ODI will evaluate the scope of Hyundai's recall, confirm Kia's use of the same or similar ZF-TRW ACU, review the root cause analysis of all involved parties, and review and evaluate pertinent vehicle and/or ACU factors that may be contributing to, or causing EOS failures.

The NHTSA also said that electrical overstress appeared to be the root cause in the 2016 recall by Fiat Chrysler America of 1.4 million US vehicles for air bag non-deployments in significant frontal crashes.

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