Takata Refuses NHTSA Call For Nationwide Airbag Recall

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

Takata won’t be conducting a nationwide recall of its defective airbags anytime soon, but did hire three former U.S. Transportation Secretaries to help the supplier manage the crisis. Meanwhile, an airbag in an non-recalled model explodes in a Japanese junkyard; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration won’t push for a nationwide passenger airbag recall; and Toyota and Honda both call for an industry review of Takata’s wares.

The Detroit News reports the supplier informed the NHTSA Wednesday morning that it will not conduct a nationwide recall of vehicles in the United States equipped with driver-side airbags, as requested by the agency in a special order made last week, and whose deadline was December 2. Deputy administrator David Friedman expressed the agency’s disappointment in a statement, lamenting Takata is failing to live up to its responsibility toward keeping drivers safe. Chair and CEO Shigehisa Takada proclaimed in his own statement that his company “remains committed to cooperating closely with our customers and NHTSA to address the potential for inflator rupturing.” An initial decision and public hearing demanding the supplier to recall is the next step for the NHTSA.

Detroit Free Press says Takata called upon former Transportation Secretaries Sam Skinner (George H.W. Bush), Rodney Slater (Bill Clinton) and Norman Mineta (Clinton, George W. Bush) to help guide it through the crisis. Skinner is slated to lead a quality assurance panel to help the supplier better design its airbags, while Slater and Mineta will provide counsel to help it “regain the public’s trust.”

Though the NHTSA is pushing for Takata to recall every driver-side airbag possibly affected by the quality issues at the center of the current regional recall, Automotive News says the agency isn’t in a hurry to do the same for passenger-side airbags. Friedman informed the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade in a written statement that such a recall “is not supported by the data as we now understand it. At this point, a national recall of all Takata air bags would divert replacement air bags from areas where they are clearly needed, putting lives at risk.” That said, if the supplier’s test data proves otherwise, the agency may demand a recall for those airbags, as well.

Over in Japan, a Takata airbag exploded in a 2003 Toyota WiLL Cypha at the Chikamatsu Shokai Co. scrapyard in the Gifu prefecture. Manager Akihiro Wakayama was caught off-guard by the explosion, as the car in question was not among the models already under recall:

I was surprised once again because the unusual explosion occurred in a vehicle that we were told to be safe. That made me think we really don’t know what we can trust to do our work safely.

The WiLL Cypha’s airbag detonation marks the seventh occurrence of junkyard detonations in Japan since June 2012, with the first six occurring among four Honda Fit and two Toyota Corolla models in July of that year. The incidences prior to the Cypha’s — all occurring during detonation procedures as prescribed by the nation’s Automotive Recycling Law prior to scrapping — led to an additional 3 million units being recalled globally.

Speaking of Toyota and Honda, The Detroit News says the two Japanese automakers are calling for a coordinated effort among the entire industry to independently test Takata’s airbags for defects. Both companies issued separate statements to Takata and eight other manufacturers — including Ford, Chrysler and General Motors — asking them to commit to the effort. Ford said it would heed Toyota’s call, with Chrysler Group proclaiming it would “remain committed to identifying the root cause” of the malfunctions, and GM taking the call “under NHTSA guidance.”

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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  • 50merc 50merc on Dec 03, 2014

    The recall doesn't include the state of Washington. Isn't it kinda humid around Seattle? You know, some clever entrepreneur should market a "Death Wish Special". It'd be a supercharged Audi 5000 outfitted with a GM ignition switch, Ford shifter pawl, Pinto gas tank, early Corvair rear suspension, underinflated Firestone tires, and Takata air bag. Buyers would be instructed to take it through a car wash three times a day.

    • See 4 previous
    • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Dec 04, 2014

      @APaGttH You mean the brake pressure switch (that would disable the cruise control)? That had battery power to it at all times and was determined to be the ignition source.

  • Beachbunny Beachbunny on Dec 03, 2014

    Gotta love it. I remember a time when air bags were supposedly to protect people from injuries... We've since proven they're hazardous to children, small adults, elderly, adults with medical conditions, and now you have Russian roulette of whether your airbag will kill you with shrapnel or not. I also find the details of the recall very disturbing. I highly doubt Infiniti used different-manufacturer airbags for cars made in the years in question which are NOT part of the recall. Maybe Takata/the manufacturers should just give us all bulletproof vests until they can come up with a proper fix. Don't diss the idea -- they've proven similar vests will protect people with osteoporosis in car accidents, no reason to believe it wouldn't work for the rest of us.

  • ToolGuy I wouldn't buy any old Chinese brand of vehicle, but the right EV at the right price, maybe possibly yes. If you told me this would alarm Ford and torque off FreedMike, all the better. 😉P.S. I would *definitely* consider an EV made in Taiwan. Take that, paramount leader!P.P.S. China batteries/components to convert one of my ICE vehicles to EV? Yes.
  • Wolfwagen I expect Renault to be less popular than Fiat
  • ToolGuy Helium-3, baby!
  • Roman Our 1999 Pontiac Sunfire Gt is still running without any issues. 25 years and counting.
  • 28-Cars-Later I thought today's young people weren't even getting licenses to drive, so which is it?