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The Wall Street Journal: Feds seek answers on potentially explosive air-bag inflators

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Federal safety regulators are asking vehicle manufacturers about potentially defective air-bag inflators estimated to be in tens of millions of cars, following a string of recall campaigns and accidents. 

In letters sent this week to about a dozen auto makers and suppliers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was seeking information on inflators used for both passenger and driver-side air bags that were made by Knoxville, Tenn.-based ARC Automotive Inc. 

The letters mark the latest step in an investigation begun more than seven years ago by NHTSA, the nation’s top auto-safety regulator, into ARC’s inflators. The components have exploded at least six times in vehicles on U.S. roads in crashes that have left two people dead and four injured, according to NHTSA filings and court documents.

ARC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. NHTSA declined to comment about the letters. 

So far, General Motors Co.
GM,
+0.63%
,
 Ford Motor Co.
F,
+0.15%
,
 BMW AG
BMW,
-1.89%

and Volkswagen AG
VOW,
-1.28%

have issued seven relatively small recall campaigns linked to NHTSA’s examination covering about 6,400 vehicles with ARC inflators. The most recent came in July, when VW said it was recalling about 1,200 cars in response to an inflator rupture in a 2016 Audi A3 e-tron that injured the driver. 

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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