• Jeep Liberty Sport

Federal safety regulators have upgraded a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) probe into 386,873 Jeep Liberty SUVs.  So far, 50 people have come forward claiming they were injured when their vehicle’s air bags deployed without any collision involvement, Reuters reports.

This investigation began all the way back in September, after the NHTSA received its initial consumer complaints about the unintended air bag deployment.  At that time, just 39 complaints had been filed.  The Liberty model years under investigation are 2002 and 2003.

Overall, the NHTSA says it has now received 87 reports of Liberty SUV air bags deploying inadvertently.  The driver’s front air bag alone was involved in 42 of these incidents, while both the driver and passenger frontal air bags were involved in the remaining 45 incidents.  The reported injuries varied from cuts and bruises to burns on the upper body.

The NHTSA reports that some of these incidents occurred when the vehicle was being started, but other complaints note the deployment occurred when the vehicle was actually being driven.  Furthermore, some drivers noted that the air bag warning light lit up just before the deployment, while other drivers did not report seeing any warning light at all.

Although Chrysler notes that no incidents have taken place in vehicles manufactured after March 19, 2003, safety regulators still point out that the automaker cannot explain why, prompting the NHTSA’s engineering analysis.  At the moment, NHTSA said that the air bag control computer chip may fail because of a spike in the electrical voltage.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the spokesman for Chrysler, Vince Muniga, said that his company is fully cooperating with the NHTSA as they attempt to get to the root of this safety defect.  Bloomberg also reports that Muniga asked company engineers “what owners of the SUVs should do if they fear the air bag might inflate unexpectedly, but he has not received a reply.”

We will continue to follow this story and alert consumers when a decision regarding these vehicles has been made.