Lemberg Law is currently examining numerous reports of front seat passenger airbags being disabled in the 2023 Rivian R1S. Owners allege that this renders them useless, creating a major safety hazard. But many dealers maintain there is nothing wrong.
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Airbag Failing Issue Explained
There are multiple complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about faulty airbags in the 2023 Rivian R1S. They all talk about the airbags — and sometimes other related safety systems — failing to detect the front seat passenger. Generally, a message appears that states the passenger airbag is off. There are also complaints that the automaker has not complied with acceptable standards regarding the airbag sensors.
Some complaints maintain that dealerships claim there is nothing wrong with the airbag system.
In March 2023, Rivian issued a recall for a total of 30 2022-2023 vehicles “with suspect side curtain airbag fastenings.” The recall revealed that one or more of the fasteners that secure the right or left side curtain airbag to the vehicle might not be properly secured to the vehicle.
However, this defect appears to be a totally separate issue, as some Rivian owners have discovered. For example, the very first complaint about problematic airbags, in July 2023, states that when technicians tested the vehicle and identified the problem. “They checked to see if this was related to the Feb 2023 recall and said it is not.” This same customer was told that “diagnostics found nothing wrong” with the vehicle.
What are Owners Reporting?
All the NHTSA complaints that relate to 2023 Rivian R1S airbag problems are essentially the same. However, there are a few specific details that some owners add to their complaints. Here are some examples.
Physical Dimensions of Passengers
Most of the complaints lodged with the NHTSA specify the weight and sometimes the height of passengers whose occupancy isn’t detected when they sit in a 2023 Rivian R1S. The overall consensus of opinion is that anyone with a lighter weight won’t trigger the passenger seat’s weight sensor. But some say it is the same when heavy people sit in the front seat.
An owner whose vehicle fails to detect a front seat passenger more than 90% of the time states that their weight ranges from 150-425 lbs. Others mention:
- A 110 lb, 5 ft 4 in tall wife
- A wife who is about 100 lbs and 5 ft 5 in tall
- Sons that are 6 ft 1 in and 145 lbs, and 5 ft 9 in and 155 lbs.
Oddly, an owner who weighs about 170 lbs states that the airbag sensor switched off when he was a passenger. But it always stays on when his girlfriend is in the passenger seat. She weighs only about 100 lb. Another owner states that when his female passenger weighing about 135 lbs travels with him, the “passenger airbag off” alert switches on and off.
Does the Seating Position Make a Difference?
A common explanation is that passengers aren’t sitting correctly. For example, a diagnostics team that was unable to “duplicate customer concern, found the occupancy sensor works as expected.” But the report goes on to say: “The occupancy sensor is very sensitive and dependent upon the weight being distributed equally throughout the seat, if the occupant sits too far forward in the seat the sensor will not detect the weight”.
Another complaint notes that, “The passenger must sit up perfectly straight and center their weight on the center of the seat for them to be properly detected. A service center visit claimed the seats are working as designed, but there is clearly an issue.”
And another: “Searching online indicates this is a common issue and repair requests are routinely denied with claims that it is operating correctly. Others have been told it is due to posture or seating position. I’ve never had a vehicle whose safety features were disabled due to poor posture?!”
But there might just be something in the posture/seating position claim, strange though it may be. At least one owner believes that the issue has everything to do with “the movement of the passenger. For example, my girlfriend was sitting in the seat, with her legs crossed. When she is in this position, the system disables. If she shifts her weight around, the system re-enables. This is repeatable, with numerous members of my family.”
Then there is a query. “Is Rivian accounting for the fact that the weight occupancy sensor accounts for the weight of the legs placed on the floor?” Whether it does or not, there are major issues that relate to the passenger seat occupancy sensor. And another thought is, why would this be a factor for passengers and not the driver?
What Should You Do if Your Rivian Has Airbag Issues?
If you have purchased a 2023 Rivian R1S that doesn’t detect a front seat passenger’s occupancy, you might have a lemon on your hands. If so, you may qualify to join our class action investigation. When you fill out a contact form or call our Helpline we undertake to evaluate your case to see if you qualify. It won’t cost you anything because the law says Rivian must pay the legal bills for lemon law cases.