View Gen3 Ball Test & False Latching Photos
See For Yourself How Gen3 Fails Standard Industry Test for Safety
A standard industry test for checking on the tendency of a seat belt to accidentally unlatch is called a "ball test." The test, which is meant to simulate hitting the button with an elbow, is simple pass-fail. A metal ball of a specific diameter is pressed against the seat belt button while the belt is in latched position. If the belt comes undone, it has failed the test.
As you can see from the demonstration and video above, the Gen3 safety belt fails the standard industry ball test.
General Motors uses a 30mm ball test. Ford Motor Co. uses a 32mm ball test. Chrysler previously used GM's 30mm ball test, but eliminated that test in the design of the Gen3. Chrysler claimed to have used a 40mm ball test (a less stringent test) for the Gen3, but the Gen3 meets neither the 30mm nor the 40mm test. During a video deposition, a Chrysler engineer applied both 30mm and 40mm balls to a Gen3 buckle. The buckle unlatched with each. (A similar demonstration by the engineer using a Gen4 buckle showed the Gen4 did not unlatch during the test).
Below are photos showing the design of a Gen3 seat belt buckle prone to false latching. You can see how a latch plate might accidentally be inserted between the release button and the buckle frame. The photo at right shows the redesigned buckle that started being installed on some models beginning with the Spring of 1996. Below the photos is a copy of an internal DaimlerChrysler memo explaining that the redesign was necessary to fix the Gen3s tendence to falsely latch, showing that the company was well aware of this defect since at least 1996.