DETROIT — Air bags in some Hyundai and Kia cars failed to inflate in crashes and four people are dead. Now the U.S. government’s road safety agency wants to know why.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it’s investigating problems that affect an estimated 425,000 cars made by the Korean automakers.

The agency also is looking into whether the same problem could happen in vehicles made by other companies.

In documents posted on its website Saturday, the safety agency said the probe covers 2011 Hyundai Sonata midsize cars and 2012 and 2013 Kia Forte compacts.

The agency said it has reports of six front-end crashes with significant damage to the cars. Four people died and six were injured.

The problem has been traced to electrical circuit shorts in air bag control computers made by parts supplier ZF-TRW. The NHTSA now wants to know if other automakers used the same computer.

On Feb. 27, Hyundai recalled nearly 155,000 Sonatas because of air bag failures, which the company traced to a short circuit in the air bag control computers. Hyundai’s sister automaker Kia, which sells similar vehicles, has yet to issue a recall.

In a statement Saturday, Kia said that it has not confirmed any air bag non-deployments in its 2002-2013 Kia Forte models arising from “the potential chip issue.” The company said it will work with NHTSA investigators.

“Kia will act promptly to conduct a safety recall, if it determines that a recall would be appropriate,” the company said.

No deaths or injuries were disclosed in Hyundai’s recall documents, which were posted by NHTSA in early March.

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