— Chevrolet Volt airbag warning lights that stayed on due to the passenger sensing system caused the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open an investigation in September 2019.
Safety regulators wanted to know if 2012-2013 Chevy Volt cars were a risk to safety after owners complained the airbag warning lights came on and stayed on.
However, NHTSA was only interested in airbag warning lights that stayed on from faulty sensing systems, not from other causes.
In addition to complaining about failures of the Chevy Volt passenger sensing systems, customers also said the problem typically occurred after the warranties expired. This left a customer with spending a lot of money to repair the systems, something many Volt owners couldn't afford.
The sensor mat for the passenger sensing system is embedded in the front passenger seat cushion and is intended to detect a child seat and a small occupant who could be harmed by deployment of the frontal passenger airbag.
The system may malfunction due to "bunching of the sensor mat in the seat trench. The bunching of the sensor mat could cause the mat to repeatedly fold in the same location."
That repeated folding can cause an electrical problem detected as a fault and a diagnostic trouble code will be stored in the airbag control unit. This is in addition to seeing an illuminated airbag warning light.
But the real problem is how the passenger frontal airbag and knee airbag will be suppressed in a crash regardless of the size of the front passenger seat occupant.
According to NHTSA, the affected Chevrolet Volts have been in use for about 10 years and GM's warranty data shows a low rate considering the number of years the cars have been on the roads.
The government also found no injuries or deaths, and General Motors created a program for replacing the passenger sensing systems in 2012-2013 Chevy Volts.
Based on those findings, NHTSA closed its Chevrolet Volt airbag light investigation.