After months of refusing to issue its own recall, Takata is finally admitting its air bags are defective. Tuesday, the NHTSA announced a major expansion of the Takata air bag recall with the Japanese supplier now declaring 34 million air bags defective in the U.S. That nearly doubles the number of vehicles already recalled to fix potentially exploding air bags now linked to six deaths worldwide.
The announcement from the NHTSA follows increased pressure by U.S. auto-safety regulators on Takata to do something about the safety issue. Until now, individual automakers were issuing their own recalls, while Takata fought demands to issue its own recall from the start.
“Today is a major step forward for public safety,” Secretary Foxx said. “The Department of Transportation is taking the proactive steps necessary to ensure that defective inflators are replaced with safe ones as quickly as possible, and that the highest risks are addressed first. We will not stop our work until every air bag is replaced.”
The actions expand regional recalls of Takata passenger-side inflators, currently limited to areas of high absolute humidity, to nationwide recalls involving more than 16 million vehicles. They also expand the current nationwide recall of driver-side inflators to more than 17 million vehicles. The Department of Transportation has also established a new website, www.SaferCar.gov/RecallsSpotlight, to provide regular updates on the status of this and other recalls and of NHTSA’s investigation.
Secretary Foxx also announced that the NHTSA issued a Consent Order to Takata, requiring the company to cooperate in all future regulatory actions that NHTSA undertakes in its ongoing investigation and oversight of Takata.
The air bags at the center of the safety crisis can potentially explode when they are deployed and send metal flying into the car, injuring or even killing passengers. There are five deaths linked to the exploding air bags in Honda’s here in the U.S. and six deaths linked to them world-wide. The problem is believed to be a propellant used in the air bags that can degrade over time and cause the bags to explode. Takata and a group of 10 auto makers are separately conducting investigations to determine the root cause of the air-bag ruptures. High humidity and moisture have been linked to the problem.
The NYT’s also reports that Takata’s air bag problems date back almost 15 years. As early as 2000, customers filed complaints with the NHTSA alluding to rupturing airbags in their vehicles. In November 2008, Honda recalled more than 4,000 cars with the airbags and then, six months later, after a teenager was killed by fragments from an exploding airbag, the company recalled another 510,000 vehicles. Safety regulators opened an investigation into the defect in 2009, but closed it abruptly 6 months later. Less than a year later, more recalls for cars with the airbags were issued and now here we are in 2015 with millions of vehicles involved.
Nissan and Mazda just recalled more than 10 million additional vehicles last week. The Justice Department is also investigating.
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