December 18, 2014

Takata-Logo-600Japanese based auto parts supplier Takata defied U.S. regulators by ignoring a deadline to expand its recall of airbags that may cause serious injuries to passengers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Takata until December 3 to expand its regional recall to a nationwide recall or face further action and a possible $35 million dollar fine.

Following reports of injuries and deaths caused by Takata airbags, vehicle manufacturers recalled over 14 million vehicles containing the faulty airbags in targeted regions worldwide. Initially, car makers believed the airbag problems were exacerbated by sustained high humidity and the recall was limited to regions of the country with hot and humid climates. However, it is unknown exactly why Takata airbags explode and the NHTSA has received two reports of Takata injury incidents that occurred outside the initial recall region, which is why pressure is mounting for Takata to expand the recall nationwide.

Takata maintains that public safety will be best served if the recall is limited to geographic areas of high humidity. The NHTSA has agreed that prolonged exposure to airborne moisture can cause the inflator propellant to burn faster than designed, which can rupture metal inflator canisters and cause severe injuries to passengers or even death. However, NHTSA maintains that there is reason to believe, based on new reports, that other vehicles in non-humid regions may be affected. At least five deaths nationwide have been reported in connection with airbag issues.

opened airbagThe U.S. government has contacted several vehicle manufacturers with the aim of expanding their vehicle recalls to any vehicle nationwide that may contain Takata airbag parts. The vehicle manufacturers affected may include B.M.W., Chrysler, Honda, Mazda, and Toyota. Both Honda and Toyota have asked vehicle manufactures to conduct independent tests on Takata airbag inflators. Toyota suggested that independent tests would allow affected manufacturers to share valuable test data to better understand how best to implement recall repairs.

In response to Toyota and similar concerns from members of Congress, Takata has hired two former transportation secretaries, Rodney E. Slater and Norman Y. Mineta, to serve as special counsels and plans to form a quality assurance panel to look into the company’s manufacturing procedures. In addition, the airbag maker has said it plans to produce more replacement units to support any further recalls announced, and may use replacement units from other parts suppliers to meet any high recall demands.

Honda stated that it will issue a nationwide recall for its affected vehicles, and Mazda has stated that it plans to expand its recall to include all U.S. vehicles with Takata parts. However, Takata has not announced plans to expand its regional recall.