Takata Airbag Recall Continues to Grow
At the end of May, Takata announced the number of vehicles recalled because of defective airbag inflators has grown to a total of 34 million. 18 million cars had previously been recalled because of the defective airbags, but the new expansion makes the recall one of the largest consumer product recalls ever.
The issue with the airbags is that they could potentially deploy with too much force and explode, sending shrapnel flying onto drivers and front seat passengers. Police officers who responded to the accidents involving cars with the explosive airbags said the victims looked like they had been shot or stabbed. In one case, the airbags deployed while the car was simply stopped at an intersection, not involved in an accident. The defective airbags have been linked to six deaths worldwide and over 100 injuries.
Although many drivers have already brought their recalled cars in to have the airbags replaced, there was some concern that the replacement airbags weren’t any safer in the long run than the ones they were replacing. Tests are still being done to determine a specific cause for what causes the airbags to explode. Without knowing exactly what was causing the airbags to explode, many people questioned how they could be sure the problem has actually been resolved. In written testimony that was recently released, Kevin M. Kennedy, Takata’s Executive Vice President of North America, said, “The final stage of the recalls will include the replacement of batwing driver inflators already installed as replacement parts…Takata has also committed to cease producing these types of driver inflators.”
One potential root cause that is still being investigated is Takata’s use of ammonium nitrate in their airbags. Chemicals are commonly used in airbags as a propellant to make them inflate quickly in the event of an accident. Most airbag manufacturers don’t use ammonium nitrate, but Takata has been using it since the late 1990s because of how quickly it can inflate an airbag. Some people believe the ammonium nitrate might become unstable in hot or humid conditions, which could cause the airbags to deploy with more force than intended. In Kennedy’s written testimony, he said the replacement inflators Takata will use won’t contain ammonium nitrate, but they don’t currently have any long-term plans to stop using ammonium nitrate as a propellant.
The NHTSA is working with automakers to compile a database of all the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) of the recalled cars, a process which the NHTSA says could take some time. So far, the recall includes cars made by Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, General Motors, Honda, and more. To find out if your car is included in the recall, the NHTSA has a site dedicated to the Takata recall with a VIN lookup tool car owners can use. But since it’s still being determined which cars are part of the recall, if you don’t see your car listed on the NHTSA’s site right now, it’s recommended to check back soon to see if it has been added.