Thanksgiving is the deadline the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is giving itself to decide whether to order additional measures to speed up the massive Takata air bag recall. Currently, the recall includes 19 million U.S. vehicles with Takata inflators that may explode and send shrapnel flying in a crash. They are linked to at least eight deaths and 100 injuries worldwide.
Thursday, NHTSA officials said more than a year into the recall process, fewer than a quarter of the vehicles have been repaired – that’s 22.5 percent nationally. The number is around 30% in high humidity areas considered most at risk. While the pace of repairs is speeding up, the current rates “are simply not good enough to address the risk these inflators pose to the driving public,” said Jennifer Timian, recall management chief at NHTSA.
NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind says the agency is looking at several ways to speed things up or even expand the recalls. The agency may also name an outside expert to oversee the recalls and deal with manufacturer’s on a day-to-day basis.
“It is hard to imagine that these repairs can happen fast enough for anyone,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.
Here are some of the actions the agency may take:
- Ordering automakers to speed up repair efforts in high-humidity regions that NHTSA has targeted as a top priority, which may require them to expand their orders of replacement parts from suppliers
- Allowing independent repair shops, not just new-car dealers, to complete repairs if dealers are unable to keep up with the pace of repairs
- Appointing an independent third party to oversee the recalls and coordinate the efforts of automakers and suppliers
- Ordering Takata or automakers to conduct additional testing on replacement parts to ensure that new parts don’t carry the same defect and risk of rupture
One of the issues is that there is still no definitive cause of the recalls, however experts say it is likely due to a chemical propellant that can break down over time in heat and humidity. So the NHTSA is still trying to prioritize those areas of the country to get to those air bags first.
NHTSA also says Takata has done testing to mimic air bag deployments on 115,000 inflators that have been returned after recalls. Takata is now “now doing between 4,000 and 5,000 tests each week. Out of those 115,000 total tests, approximately 450 inflators have ruptured,” NHTSA said.
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