WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into an estimated 33,500 2012 Subaru Impreza cars following consumer complaints that the front passenger airbag can be turned off when the seat is occupied.
NHTSA said it has received 26 owner complaints.
"The reports allege that the Occupant Detection System failed to operate properly and incorrectly turned off the front-passenger airbag when the seat was occupied," said NHTSA in its summary of the probe. "A suppressed airbag may increase the risk of injury to the occupant of the seat."
Federal safety regulators have received no reports of crashes, injuries or fatalities linked to the investigation.
A Subaru spokesman did not respond immediately to a query from Edmunds seeking comment about the probe.
NHTSA notes that Subaru published a technical service bulletin on May 29, 2012 to address conditions with the Occupant Detection System that can lead to suppression of the passenger airbag.
A "preliminary evaluation" has been opened. Such an action sometimes precedes a vehicle recall.
NHTSA said it is opening this investigation to assess the scope, frequency and consequence of incorrect airbag suppression and any connection that may exist to the technical service bulletin.
Edmunds says: Owners of these cars will have to wait for federal safety regulators to finish their investigation before taking any action. But if you have a concern in the meantime, it's best to contact your Subaru dealer.