WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two decades after airbags began widely appearing in vehicles, automakers are adding more bags in more places to appeal to safety-conscious consumers, according to the Detroit News. Today, airbags are moving under the dashboard, into the back seat and under seat cushions.

Last month, Toyota Motor Corp. said its 2008 Lexus LX 570 SUV will come with 10 airbags as standard equipment — the most available in any vehicle from any automaker. Across the industry, an increasing number of companies are offering eight airbags in many models, including BMW, Hyundai Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen’s Audi.

By 2012, the U.S. auto fleet is predicted to top 100 million airbags. One key reason is that automakers agreed in 2003 to equip at least 50 percent of their fleets with side airbags by Sept. 1, 2007, to better protect passengers in crashes involving vehicles that are not of comparable sizes. All vehicles will have side bags by 2009.

But research by J.D. Power and Associates suggests that consumers are demanding more airbags, especially side airbags. A 2006 survey of 40,000 drivers ranked side-impact airbags as the top emerging technology they want.

Sweden-headquartered Autoliv, the market leader in airbags, said that it expects the North American airbag market to reach 100.4 million by 2012 — nearly double the 57.6 million sold in 2006. Autoliv expects global airbag sales to hit 325 million, up from 153 million in 2006, according to The Detroit News.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials