Largest safety recall in U.S. history as “shrapnel” from airbags penetrates motorists.
Airbag fault traced to inflators
U.S. authorities prompted by a series of deaths and injuries have expanded a recall of airbag inflators produced by Takata; a Japanese company. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its recall now incorporates a further 35 to 40 million inflators. This adds to the previous 28.8 million.
Airbag malfunction explained
NHTSA explained that the inflators contain ammonium nitrate which is a propellent. It enables airbags to inflate, in other words. It said a combination of time, environmental moisture and fluctuating high temperatures can make this substance degrade and burn too fast.
The result, it claimed, is that the airbag inflator module can rupture and propel “shrapnel” through the airbag and into the vehicle occupants. NHTSA argued: “Ruptures of the Takata inflators have been tied to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries” in the U.S.
A NHTSA Administrator, Mark Rosekind, confirmed: “The science clearly shows that these inflators become unsafe over time; faster when exposed to humidity and variations of temperature.” Mr Rosekind continued: “This recall schedule ensures the inflators will be recalled and replaced before they become dangerous.”
Airbag recall scope and time scale
On this basis: “All Takata ammonium nitrate-based propellant driver and passenger frontal airbag inflators - without a chemical drying agent also known as a desiccant - will be recalled”. Rumours suggest that about a dozen motor manufacturers have impeded models.
The recall has five phases, with the cars most likely to be problematic first to receive a remedy. It is likely that every inflator will be replaced by December 2019. “People who receive notification that there is a remedy available for their vehicle should act immediately to have the inflator fixed”, Mr Rosekind said.
Takata apologises and promises cooperation
Takata Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Shigehisa Takada, commented: “I would like to apologise for the concern caused to the driving public, our business partners and our shareholders by the extensive market recalls of vehicles fitted with Takata airbags.”
“We are working on many fronts to ensure the safety of the driving public and restore trust in our company’s products. In partnership with our automaker customers, we are investigating and analysing the cause of the problems.”
He continued: “We are providing complete support for the market recalls, and we are cooperating fully and closely with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other regulators to resolve the issues and ensure the safety of our end-users.”
Takata might now find it harder to attract business. Scott Upham, Chief Executive of Valient Market Research, told the BBC: "What the car makers are doing is reaching out to their other airbag makers to provide replacement parts, rather than Takata.” He argued: “I think the goal is to really get Takata completely out of the loop."