Before the federal government compels an automaker to issue a recall, it will first investigate the issue. That's what's going on right now with one specific Jeep model.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating a potential issue that could affect approximately 105,000 examples of the 2012 Jeep Liberty SUV. Since it's just an investigation, there are no specifics available for the cars, whether it's certain trim levels or build dates.
The investigation began after the NHTSA received 44 complaints regarding the airbag system. The reports allege that the airbag warning light stayed illuminated after the occupant restraint controller, which controls airbag deployment, apparently failed. If this controller fails, it could prevent the airbags from deploying in the event of a crash, which is a massive safety issue, if true.
According to NHTSA documents, some owners were able to remedy the issue by having the controller replaced, while others opted to forego a fix, even after being advised that the controller needed replacing. The investigation is limited to the 2012 model, because "reports involving earlier model years appear to be less frequent."
The NHTSA's investigation will look at the "scope, frequency and safety-related consequence" of the purported defect. If the feds determine that this issue is widespread and occupant safety is at risk, it can compel the automaker to recall the vehicle to remedy the issue. Were that to happen, the solution would likely be the same simple parts replacement that remedied the warning light as mentioned above.