Why the NHTSA Doesn’t Want to Recall All Cars With Takata Airbags
Since 2013, there has been an ongoing series of recalls by automakers for cars that are equipped with Takata airbags made with defective inflators. Almost three years after the first recalls began, over 20 million vehicles in the United States (over 30 million vehicles worldwide) by 14 different automakers have been recalled so far as a result of those defective Takata airbag inflators, making it the largest and most complex defective product recall in U.S. history.
If you’ve been following the story, you’ve probably noticed that many of these recalls tend come in waves. Every now and then, an automaker will announce a recall of certain makes and models of their vehicles that have the defective airbags in question and before long, another automaker (or even a couple of automakers) will do the same thing, and so on and so forth. You might be wondering why the NHTSA doesn’t just go ahead and issue one big recall for all vehicles that have Takata airbags. After all, the sheer number of vehicles impacted by recalls so far has grown so large that you might think it would be easier to just recall all vehicles with airbags made by Takata.
As the number of deaths and injuries caused by these faulty airbag inflators continues to grow, more and more lawmakers and regulators have started calling on the NHTSA to recall all vehicles that have Takata airbags. However, Mark Rosekind of the NHTSA is concerned that issuing ordering that large of a recall would be an overreach of the NHTSA’s authority and would create too much uncertainty amongst consumers.
Rosekind is also concerned that a complete recall of all Takata airbags would put too much of a strain on the process of making parts for repairs available. As it stands, Takata and other manufacturers who have been producing parts for repairs have been facing an uphill battle in terms of keeping up with demand. Many people who called their local dealerships to have their cars repaired have faced long waits because parts weren’t available. In fact, the whole reason why other manufacturers have started making parts for the repairs was to help speed up the repair process. In May 2015, CNN reported that repairing the recalled cars could take between 2 and 5 years. As of March 2016, the NHTSA says that just over 7.1 million of the recalled Takata airbags have been repaired in the United States.
According to Rosekind, the availability of recall parts have been targeted to make sure the cars at the highest risk taken are care of first. Since the problems with the airbags have been most strongly linked to older cars in areas with high humidity, parts for repairs have been targeted toward areas along the Gulf Coast.
However, just because the NHTSA isn’t pushing for a large recall of all Takata airbags at this time, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be an option later on. The NHTSA has told Takata that they have until the end of 2018 to prove their airbag inflators are safe or they they will issue a total recall of all cars with Takata airbags.