The US Transportation Department has ordered airbag maker Takata to recall nearly double the amount of vehicles from a previous recall. A defect in air bag inflators has promoted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a Consent Order to Takata. The Consent Order requires the company to cooperate in all future regulatory actions that NHTSA undertakes in its ongoing investigation and oversight of Takata. In addition, NHTSA announced its intent to begin a formal legal process to organize and prioritize the replacement of defective Takata inflators under the agency’s legal authority.
The actions expand regional recalls of Takata passenger-side inflators to nationwide recalls involving more than 16 million vehicles. They also expand the current nationwide recall of driver-side inflators to more than 17 million vehicles. It’s anticipated that the remedy of vehicles will be prioritized based upon risk, with the vehicles that present the greatest risk in terms of age and geographic location to be serviced first. The inflators were used in vehicles manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.
Testing and investigation by Takata, auto manufacturers, and independent researchers have not yet established a definitive root cause of the inflator malfunctions. NHTSA’s analysis of test results and engineering reports from independent organizations points to moisture infiltrating the defective inflators over extended periods of time as a factor.
Over time, that moisture causes changes in the structure of the chemical propellant that ignites when an air bag deploys. The degraded propellant ignites too quickly, producing excess pressure that causes the inflator to rupture and sends metal shards into the passenger cabin that can lead to serious injury or death.
The agency already has held informal discussions with automakers and parts suppliers in an effort to coordinate one of the largest and most complex product recalls in history. NHTSA also plans to issue notice of intent to open a proceeding that would coordinate the remedy program for Takata inflators in order to address the highest risks quickly.
NHTSA is waiting for the automakers to supply a complete list of affected vehicles. Once manufacturers identify which vehicles are affected, use NHTSA’s VIN search tool to confirm whether your individual vehicle is under recall, and search by VIN on a specific vehicle-maker’s site. It’s important to check periodically because it’s possible your VIN might not be entered into a manufacturer’s system for several weeks after a recall is first announced. If your vehicle is affected, follow-up with the manufacturer to get interim guidance and get your vehicle fixed as soon as parts are available.
The Department has established a new website, www.SaferCar.gov/RecallsSpotlight, to provide regular updates on the status of this and other recalls and of NHTSA’s investigation.