- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003


  Nissan Motor Co. will offer to replace air bags in some 198,000 older model Altimas because of complaints that they deploy too forcefully and have injured passengers’ eyes.
  As a result, federal safety regulators last week closed their investigation of the 1994 and early 1995 Altima air bags without issuing a conclusion about whether they are defective.
  Nissan’s agreement to offer owners free installation of less-powerful air bags “sufficiently addresses the safety concerns,” the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration said in paperwork closing the 2-year-old case.
  The Altima investigation found 79 complaints of facial or eye injuries from passenger-side air bags.
   There were “far more claims” of moderate or serious eye injury than in similar automobiles, the agency said.
  Consumer advocates say the Altima models in question cause eye injuries at a rate 20 times higher than other cars that are on the road now.
   Nissan disputes that figure, saying the number of complaints reported grew disproportionately because of lawsuits targeting the Altima.
  Nissan says the air bags are safe and similar to those on other automobiles.
   The company described the replacement campaign as a response to bad publicity that might worry its customers and also potential future buyers.
  “It’s being offered to owners to maintain customer satisfaction and assure their confidence,” said Scott Vazin, a spokesman for Nissan North America.
  The government’s investigation covered passenger-side air bags in 1994 Altimas and 1995 models built before March 2, 1995, when the company changed the design of the bags.
  Mr. Vazin said owner-notification letters will be mailed starting next week and will continue over the next several months.
   Altima owners also can call 800-NISSAN-1 or talk to local dealers for information.
  


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