Hyundai is recalling about 5,200 of its Azera sedans because the front passenger airbag could inflate when a child is sitting there, causing injury or death.
Hyundai told the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration that the potential flaw is present in 2012 - 2013 Azeras built from May 22, 2012 through November 23, 2012. Hyundai said it since has corrected the problem and newer vehicles shouldn't be at risk.
The possible flaw can affect "the ability of the sensor to properly distinguish when the front passenger airbag should be deactivated," Hyundai said in a filing with federal safety officials.
All vehicles' front seats use sensors to meet the requirement that they be able to distinguish between small, light passengers -- mainly children -- and normal-size adults. The air bag is supposed to inflate more gently, or not supposed to inflate at all, in a crash when a smaller person is in the seat because the full force of the bag against a small body could be harmful. The safety belt is supposed to be adequate in such cases.
In most states, children under certain ages aren't legally allowed to sit up front. Still, the rule is meant to protect kids who are allowed up front, as well as small-stature adults.
Hyundai told NHTSA that its supplier, Autoliv Korea, notified the automaker last November that a change in fabric covering the sensor mat within the seat could cause the system to misread the sensor and inflate the airbag when it shouldn't.
The car company said it received five warranty claims from last May through November as a result of airbag warning lights coming on for no apparent reason.
Hyundai said it expects to begin notifying owners the third quarter this year. Dealers will recalibrate the airbag system to account for the fabric change.
James R. Healey, USA TODAY