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Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday it is opening a formal investigation into 384,000 2008 Honda Accord cars over reports of air bag failures from an electronic glitch.

NHTSA said the air bag control module may prevent air bags from deploying in a crash — a malfunction causes the air bag status/readiness indicator lamp to illuminate and the air bag system remains disabled until repaired. The issue is linked to 19 complaints, one crash and one injury.

NHTSA said it inspected the air bag control module after a crash.

“Consumers report the SRS control module had to be replaced to correct the condition. Several reports indicated that the SRS module was unable to communicate thus preventing diagnostic trouble codes from being retrieved. An inability of the SRS unit to communicate raises concern about the readiness of the entire supplemental restraints system. As a result, for vehicles with a failed SRS module, some or all of the air bags may be unavailable in a crash warranting deployment," NHTSA said.

A complaint filed with NHTSA in March said: “My son was driving my car and did not make a turn and ran into a concrete block wall at about 50 mph. The air bags did not deploy.”

An owner in Lake in the Hills, Illinois, told NHTSA in 2014 that a dealer told him that the air bag control module failed making all of the air bags useless.

"At the time, my wife was pregnant and drove 100 miles roundtrip (highway) daily to work. I needed this part addressed ASAP," he wrote.

But multiple Honda dealers wouldn't fix the problem in a timely fashion, wouldn't offer a free loaner and insisted on charging a diagnostic fee — even though the problem had already been diagnosed. The repair cost him nearly $500.

Other owners were charged even more. One owner in Maryland said replacing the air bag module will cost $700 and the dealer said he was unsure the air bags will work without the expensive repair. The owner asked Honda to recall the vehicle and was told the vehicle was no longer covered by the warranty.

Another complaint came from an owner’s son in Groveland, Florida, who said his elderly mother has just 31,000 miles on her 2008 Accord.

“She is elderly and she thought that it was her seat belt light,” the complaint said.

Honda spokesman Chris Martin said the automaker "will cooperate with the NHTSA through the investigation process, and we will continue our own internal review of the available information."

DShepardson@detroitnews.com

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