US safety regulators probe Subaru cars' air bags

DETROIT (REUTERS) - US safety regulators have opened an investigation into Subaru Impreza cars from model year 2012 because the front passenger seat air bags may fail to operate.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted online that it had received 26 vehicle owner questionnaires involving the Imprezas' occupant detection system failing to operate or incorrectly turning off the front passenger air bag when the seat is occupied, which could increase the risk of injury in an accident. The investigation involved an estimated 33,500 cars.

The NHTSA also noted that Subaru, a unit of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, published a technical service bulletin in May 2012 to address conditions that lead to the passenger seat air bag turning off when the front seat is occupied.

The US safety agency said it was opening the probe, called a preliminary evaluation, to assess the scope, frequency and consequence of the potential problem and any possible connection to the earlier service bulletin.

Subaru officials could not immediately be reached to comment.

A preliminary investigation is the first step in a process that can lead to a recall if regulators determine that a manufacturer needs to address a safety issue.

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