Kia Rio Recalled for Airbag Safety Issue

Kia RioKorean automaker Kia has issued a recall notice for 73,000 of their Rio subcompacts of model years 2006 to 2008. Kia issued the recall this month, citing a sensor located in the right-front passenger seat as the problem. Failure of this sensor may allow the passenger-side airbag to deploy when it should not. Most later model vehicles contain a passenger seat sensor that detects the weight of a person or object in the seat. The sensor is used to disable or soften the deployment of the airbag below a certain weight. The main purpose of these sensors is to prevent dangerous, or even fatal, deployment of an airbag when a child or smaller adult is sitting in the passenger seat.

Airbags have been a major factor in improved vehicle safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (, by 2008, front passenger air bags had saved over 25,000 lives since their introduction in 1987. However, there has been a flaw with passenger-side airbags. After their introduction, reports of injuries from airbags, deployed with excessive force, were reported, mostly involving children or small adults sitting in the passenger seat.

To address this problem, manufacturers began installing on/off switches to control the deployment of the airbag. Also in 1997, the NHTSA issued a regulation which allowed car owners to have their airbag system retrofitted with the on/off switch or disabled completely by an authorized repair shop or dealer. The switch system allows the driver to turn the airbag off if an at-risk passenger is in the front seat and provides an indicator lamp showing if the system is on or off.

However, according to the NHTSA, 48 percent of the switches were left on when they should have been turned off. Passenger-side airbag sensors were eventually introduced to reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by passenger airbags. To remove the need for the driver to remember the status of the passenger airbag, the sensor was designed to automatically detect the weight in the passenger seat and turn the airbag on or off accordingly.

Beginning in July, the sensor will be replaced by Kia at no cost to the vehicle owner. Contact your local Kia dealer to arrange for service. If you are a Kia owner and have further questions, Kia has provided a toll-free number at (800) 333-4542. Kia also manufactures the small sport utility vehicle, the Kia Sportage, as well as the Kia Soul.