Way back in 2016, we wrote about ARC Automotive of Knoxville TN, and how they were being intentionally obstructionist in investigations with US Federal regulators regarding safety issues with their airbags. Media reports claimed ARC was “stonewalling,” and that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claimed ARC had “missed deadlines and failed to report crash information and test results as required by law.”

At that time, only one death was deemed likely attributable to ARC airbag inflators. Since then, another fatal incident and a number of injuries have occurred, and the NHTSA has called for a full-on recall of the ARC products.

ARC, a company that seems to really want to watch its executive management do a perpwalk at some point, is dug in. They are just refusing to comply with the NHTSA demand. Per the Associated Press, Steve Gold, ARC’s VP of Product Integrity claimed “that NHTSA’s position is not based on any objective technical or engineering conclusion about a defect” and “manufacturers must do recalls, not equipment manufacturers like ARC.

Back in 2016, I found it near-impossible to verify if ARC held ISO/TS 16949 certification for its automotive quality system, despite having reports that BSI issued the cert. Around that same time, the standard was converted to “IATF 16949,” and the current certification verification website is completely broken. In searching for “ARC Automotive” the database consistently threw an error, saying “too many entries” asking me to pare my search somehow. Later, I spoke with the German development team of the database, and they just indignantly claimed it was user error. Yes, it’s 2023 and IT nerds are still using PEBKAC as a real excuse.

At that point, I went to the top and wrote to the IATF directly. James Bruin, the Executive Director of the IATF’s International Automotive Oversight Bureau (IAOB) confirmed that the 16949 certificate for ARC had been withdrawn.

Which is nothing less than stunning, for those of us sitting in the cheap seats of ISO 9001 or AS9100 users. Under those schemes, you’d never see a certificate withdrawn, even after hundreds of people were killed by a given product. So kudos to the IATF folks who clearly are not playing the same game as the ISO and AS folks, and actually have some level of integrity behind their certification scheme.

ARC, meanwhile, continues to market itself as IATF 16949 certified, at least as of today, presumably since if you’re going to continue to pump out products that the US government says are killing people, then fibbing on your website is just another day in the office. Bruin confirmed to me that they will investigate ARC’s claims.

Takata airbags, which resulted in the largest single automotive recall in human history, has been certified to various standards by Entela. That certification body was then bought by Intertek, which “lost” the records of its certification of Takata. But executives familiar with the companies at that time confirmed to me that Intertek did take over the certification of Takata’s airbag plants for at least a short while.

About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.


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