NHTSA Under The Gun Again Over Handling Of Takata Airbag Recall

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

Not long after undergoing scrutiny over its part of the February 2014 General Motors ignition switch recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration once again is under the gun, this time in its handling of the Takata airbag crisis.

Automotive News reports that the agency’s mostly hands-off approach, allowing automakers to use field actions to recall vehicles in a handful of states and territories where the possibility for catastrophic failure is greatest, is following the same track as the one that ultimately led GM to recall 2.6 million vehicles made in the early to mid-2000s, though on a greater scale.

Additionally, the NHTSA hasn’t ordered Takata itself to recall its defective airbags, mainly as it waits for more data to confirm the airbags are likely to act more like Claymores than safety devices under high humidity. In fact, the two parties entered into an agreement in June where affected automakers would conduct said field actions in only areas where those conditions are most prevalent — such as Florida and Puerto Rico, where six reports of failure were recorded. The airbags collected would then be tested, with the results sent to investigators.

As the recall widens its net further, the NHTSA is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, whose secretary, Anthony Foxx, received a letter from Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markley of Massachusetts — both heavy critics of the NHTSA’s handling of the GM recall — urging Foxx to order the agency to be more assertive:

NHTSA should immediately issue a nationwide safety recall on all the affected cars, regardless of where the car is registered. We have become increasingly troubled and alarmed by the confusing and conflicting advice being issued by NHTSA and the glacial pace of the agency’s response to this public safety threat.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, still investigating the GM recall, is now ordering an investigation into the Takata recall.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • VoGo VoGo on Oct 27, 2014

    Yet another media circus. I read yesterday that more Americans had married Kim Kardashian than had died from Ebola. Same deal; it's all about ratings.

  • Eamiller Eamiller on Oct 27, 2014

    I think this is a good thing. Doing recalls just because the car is currently registered in an area with a humid climate ignores all potential past usage of that vehicle. How long does it need to be exposed before becoming an issue? Will my family trip to Florida for a week potentially cause a problem? It's clear that this recall is seriously lacking data, and relying on the recall itself to generate the data by deploying the replaced bags. The issue here is that you'll never know it's defective until it's too late. Given the relatively low deployment percentage of a vehicle population, it is probably tough for them to extrapolate the statistics on this one. Takata showed some pretty disturbing lack of production control in their manufacturing plant. Quite frankly, this is shocking coming from a Japanese company, but this isn't the first time Takata has cost manufacturers plenty. Back in the 80s, Takata forgot to put UV stabilizer in the plastics used in their seatbelt release buttons. This would cause the plastic to disintegrate into the buckle and prevent secure latching of the belt.

  • Bd2 I wonder how TTAC is celebrating this JuneTeenth? Rolling around naked in hyundai flavored mud somewhere like they usually do?
  • Wjtinfwb I'd like to see a Ford/Mazda relationship restarted. Both companies have some car guys keeping the flame alive and could develop a sports car slightly bigger than a Miata and pick and choose from each other's parts bin to put together some attractive powertrain combo's. Even a Mazda 3 AWD with the 300HP EcoBoost 2.3L, manual and AWD from the Focus RS would be welcome. Even better, a factory Miata V8 with the 480 HP Coyote (i know it wont fit...) and a manual gearbox. And how about a CX-5 with a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with AWD and an chassis tuned for sport. Lots of possibilities.
  • Blueice Patient 28, sorry, but it is Oktoberfest. Bring a kegof Kraut beer and we will 50% you.
  • Bd2 Probably Toyota, Hyundai is killing them these days.
  • Wolfwagen If Isuzu could update this truck and keep the cost between $25K - $30K they would sell like ice pops on dollar day in a heat wave.