Airbag Concerns for Some Nissan Versa Owners

Federal Agency investigating several complaints about the vehicle's airbags.

The 2012 Nissan Versa was recently named a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but one Connecticut man wonders just how safe the vehicle really is now that a potential safety defect is under investigation.

David Dickerson says he first realized something was wrong with his car after the airbags failed to deploy during what he calls a serious collision with the side of Windsor home back in August.

"The front end of my car went right into the foundation and cracked the foundation," said Dickerson.

He says he was going about 40 miles an hour near the intersection of Windsor Avenue and Tobey Avenue when he lost control of his car.  The front end of his Versa was crunched in, the windshield cracked in two and the car was scraped and dented down the driver's side.  Dickerson says he was stunned the airbags didn't go off.

"If I hadn't had my seat belt on, I would have hit the windshield that was already busted and cracked," he said.

The police accident report confirms the airbags stayed intact.  Police, though, say they've seen similar crashed where the airbags have gone off.  Even a mechanic who specializes in collision repair says he's seen plenty of cars with similar damage and deployed airbags.

"Looking at the accident photos, in my professional opinion you would assume the airbags would have gone off in this kind of accident," said Aldo Carducci of AC Automotive.

And according to Nissan's Safety and Airbag Information Guide a severe collision with an immovable object, such as a home, probably would activate the front air bags.

"My driver's airbag didn't deploy, the driver's side airbag didn't deploy, none of them deployed," Dickerson said.

Dickerson isn't the only person to report airbag problems with 2012 Nissan Versa.  Right now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the 2012 Versa for a possible defective airbag cable assembly.  So far, it has received 5 complaints.

Dickerson has an uphill battle with his complaint though.  His airbags were not inspected after the crash.  According to Nissan, that's because Dickerson didn't contact them until after his insurance company declared the car totaled and it was sent to a scrap yard.  Dickerson disputes the timeline.

In a statement to NBC Connecticut, Nissan says "We are not able to have a team from Nissan inspect Mr. Dickerson's vehicle.  We have responded to the NHTSA inquiry and we do not believe this is a safety defect."

According to NHTSA documents, Nissan has had 35 complaints about airbags, but only 3 were related to pinched cables.  Even so, NHTSA's investigation shows Nissan recently changed its quality control process when it comes to installing airbags to eliminate the possibility of any pinched cables during installation.

Nissan says a SRS warning light will illuminate on the dashboard if there is any problem with the car's airbags.  If it is not illuminated, Versa owners can "be confident their airbags will work as intended."

Dickerson says his SRS warning light never came on.

NTSHA's investigation will now determine whether a recall is issued, but it's unclear how long it'll take to complete.  That concerns Dickerson who just bought another 2012 Nissan Versa without knowing about the possible defect.  He says he now worries about his safety every time he's behind the wheel.

"I just want my car to be safe.  I don't want looks.  I want safety," Dickerson said.

The 2012 Versa was already recalled in February for problems with its shifter assembly.  Nissan found cars could be shifted out of park without the driver first depressing the brake pedal.

If you are concerned about the airbags in your 2012 Nissan Versa, Nissan says a service visit to check the airbags without the SRS warning light illuminated would not be covered under warranty.  A technician, though, can check for the problem.

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