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Takata’s Latest Airbag Recall Is Largest Auto Safety Defect

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Airbag Exploding


After recalling over 24 million cars so far, Takata is issuing another recall for air bags, making it the largest recall in our history. This week, Takata announced an agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall another 25 to 40 million air bag inflators.  That means 25 to 40 million cars.  The recall will start immediately and is estimated to run through December 2019 in phases, with the most dangerous inflators being fixed first, according to Mark Rosekind, NHTSA’s administrator. Rosekind, whose own Takata airbag equipped vehicle is still awaiting replacement parts, said this week, “We are absolutely not satisfied with current completion rates of recalls already under way.”

As reported by CBS News, this is how the phases have been determined. “The five recall phases are based on prioritization of risk, determined by the age of the inflators and exposure to high humidity and fluctuating high temperatures that accelerate the degradation of the chemical propellant, the agency [NHTSA] said.” Takata uses two different products in making air bags. The newest round of recalls will be for those vehicles with the “ammonium nitrate-based propellant driver and passenger frontal air bag inflators without a chemical drying agent, also known as a desiccant” according to the NHTSA.  (CBSNews.com, 05-04-16)

This recall is massive and it will take years to fully complete.  It is the largest auto safety defect recorded to date in the U.S.  How did this happen?  It is simple, and goes back to the root of nearly every recall and product defect we see:  Profits over Safety.   This is no different.  The defect was ignored for years by Takata and the auto industry; perhaps they collectively thought “if we ignore it, it will go away.”  They never do, and here we are.

Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal, members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, issued a statement on Wednesday, May 4, about Takata’s latest recall:

This expanded recall of millions more Takata airbags reflects what we have long known about ammonium nitrate being inherently dangerous as an airbag propellant and underscores the need for an immediate recall of all of these potentially lethal airbags. Repeated stopgap partial steps, like today’s, will only continue to put drivers, their passengers, and even others on the road at urgent risk. Until all Takata airbags are replaced with truly reliable protective products that don’t use ammonium nitrate and have proven that they pass most stringent quality assurance testing standards, Takata’s spiraling record of fatal tragedy will continue.

As of April 2016,  NHTSA reports that only about 1/3 of those previously recalled – roughly 8 million – vehicles with Takata air bags have been fixed. Takata has agreed to pay $70 million in penalties and up to $200 million in fines for its initial failure to report the defect and for the delay in fixing identified vehicles.   Will Takata survive this calamity?

I urge you to take a few minutes to get the VIN (vehicle identification number) from your car (the VIN is located above the dash, on the driver’s side right near the windshield) and check it on this government site to see if your vehicle is included in the recall.   Safe travels.