Faulty Design In Passenger Seat
ILLINOIS -- I recently purchased a 2007 Kia Optima from a local dealer. The first week I had the car, what I noticed was that when my wife sat in the front passenger seat, the warning light on the dash would remain illuminated, indicating that the passenger air bags were "off". Mind you, she weighs 150 lbs., So certainly the sensors in her seat should be able to detect that a full sized adult is sitting in the seat, and therefore the air bag system should be fully activated. I phoned the dealer, and got a guy on the phone from the service dept. After telling him the problem, his answer was it was probably due to the way my wife was sitting in the seat. In other words, she has to sit exactly a certain way, and be very conscious of how she first sits in the car, otherwise the sensors in the seat will not pick up the proper signal, and the air bag light will not turn off. This of course means, in the event of a crash, her air bags would not deploy !!
Yesterday, I brought my Optima in to the dealer to have this problem addressed by a mechanic to see if in fact there was anything defective with the seat. After nearly two hours of waiting, I was approached by the service manager, who showed me a bulletin he had recently received from the Kia corporation relating to the very issue that I was concerned about. This bulletin went on to say that the passenger body must be positioned in a very exacting way when they first sit in the passenger seat. The proper positioning on the seat, especially the way they extend their legs, is vital in those first few moments. If the said passenger does not sit properly in the first few moments, the sensors in the seat will not recognize the individual as a full sized person, therefore the air bags would not deploy in the event of a crash!! I then walked out into the service area, and personally spoke with the mechanic who had been checking my car. He was quite clear with his explanation, and he concurred with the bulletin about how an individual sits in the passenger depends on the way the sensors read the person, and how they then react.
In summation, this design of the sensors is clearly a flaw. Why should I as the driver, or my front passenger, have to worry about how to sit their body in the front seat ??? The air bag system in my wife's Honda, as a comparison, is always "on". The only time it is deactivated, is if it recognizes something light on her passenger front seat, such as her handbag when she sets it on the seat. It is only then that the "passenger air bag off" light is illuminated. I love my Kia Optima otherwise, it is a well built vehicle. But this air bag issue apparently has become an issue with other consumers besides me. It hopefully will be rectified in future models.