Another Gigantic Takata Airbag Recall Could Be Incoming
Automakers could be staring down the barrel of another brutally large airbag recall as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration evaluates the long-term safety of inflators manufactured by the now-bankrupt Takata. Earlier this month, the parts supplier announced a recall affecting 1.4 million additional vehicles following the death of a BMW driver. Several new injuries also stemmed from the issue.
At the same time, the U.S. road safety regulator had to make a decision as to whether the roughly 100 million inflators containing a chemical drying agent intended to solve the problem are actually safe.
So far, it’s looking like a no.
Takata was originally busted for selling defective inflators using ammonium nitrate, which became unstable after the passage of time and ran the risk of exploding and spraying occupants with metallic debris. The situation grew worse when moisture was introduced, making affected vehicles in humid locales especially dangerous. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after reaching a $1 billion settlement with the Justice Department over wire fraud charges. It has since been acquired by China’s Joyson Safety Systems.
The NHTSA has until the end of 2019 to make a final decision. If it decides the inflators containing the drying agent are deemed unworthy, we’re looking at another recall of epic proportions. This time automakers will be handed a bill, because Takata is no more.
“The automakers and the suppliers, they all knew this was coming,” Scott Upham of Valient Market Research explained to Bloomberg in an interview. “They are on the hook. Because of Takata’s bankruptcy, they are going to have to cover 100 percent of the costs.”
A group of automakers involved in the [original] recalls commissioned durability tests of the desiccant-equipped airbags and presented their findings to NHTSA in early October. The group, known as the Independent Testing Coalition, found that the drying agent provided significant protection. The group recommended a monitoring program for one inflator design in the riskiest climates while telling NHSTA that it believes the parts present no immediate safety risk.
“After 30 years of predicted aging, none of the studied inflator designs and propellant combinations predicted detrimental effects, except those subjected to the most severe conditions and vehicle temperature,” David Kelly, the ITC’s program director and a former NHTSA acting administrator, said in an October statement.
Meanwhile, the NHTSA said it’s still reviewing information regarding the safety of the desiccated inflators and hopes to have enough data to determine its next step before long.
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