A December 3
rd news report stated Takata Corporation defied a U.S. safety agency's
demand for a recall of potentially deadly driver's side airbags. This
refusal to recall the airbags leaves many motorists worried about the
safety of their vehicle, and also potentially sets the stage for governmental
legal actions and sanctions. Takata claims their own internal testing
supports issuing recalls only in areas with extremely high humidity, such
as along the Gulf Coast. The driver's side airbags have been found
to explode with extreme force, sending shrapnel shards into the passenger
compartment, and resulting in at least five deaths and dozens of serious
injuries. In addition, thousands of consumers are now driving cars with
defective airbags that have decreased the value of their vehicles drastically.
U.S. Officials Want Recall Extended to all Fifty States-Takata Balks
On November 26
th, the United States demanded the recall be extended to all 50 states; Honda,
one of Takata's biggest customers, agreed to such a recall, however
other car manufacturers have not yet followed Honda's lead. Thus far,
nearly 14 million vehicles, worldwide, have been recalled. Approximately
8 million of those occurred in the United States. If Takata agrees to
a nationwide recall, at least another 8 million U.S. vehicles would be
added to the recall list. Takata officials maintain prolonged exposure
to airborne moisture causes the inflator propellant to burn to fast and
explode with too much force. Takata has also contended the U.S. only has
authority to demand a recall from auto manufacturers-such as Honda-but
not from the original suppliers of vehicle parts.
The NHTSA calls Takata's refusal to recall all the airbags "disappointing,"
and is now determining what steps will be taken in response to the refusal.
Civil fines up to $35 million can be imposed on Takata as well as legal
action taken against the company. The NHTSA stated drivers had been injured
by the defective airbags in states outside the recall zones, specifically
California and North Carolina. Takata, however, seems to have dug in its
heels, saying it tested 1,057 driver and passenger inflators taken from
vehicles outside the high-humidity zones and none of them had ruptured.
Honda, Toyota and BMW executives testified at the Congressional hearing
and assured the panel that cars not subject to the current recall-even
if they had a Takata airbag-were perfectly safe to drive.
Can Takata Financially Handle an Expanded Recall?
Despite this assurance, Toyota and Honda have been calling for an industry-wide
investigation regarding the dangerous airbags, but had no immediate comments
related to Takata's refusal to recall the airbags in all fifty states.
A Nissan Motor Co. spokesman also had no comment after stating the problems
are still being investigated. Toyota has asked the industry to hire an
independent engineering company to determine how dangerous the airbags
really are, and General Motors, Nissan, Subaru, Chrysler and Ford have
agreed with that recommendation. If Takata agrees to a nation-wide recall
of the airbags, vehicles may by Ford, Honda, Chrysler, Mazda and BMW,
mostly 2008 models and earlier, could be affected. Since there are more
than 100 million Takata airbags worldwide, and more than 30 million in
the U.S. alone, there is concern over whether Takata can financially handle
such a large recall.
Some Auto Manufacturers Expand their Original Recalls
On December 4
th, Chrysler, Ford and Toyota expanded the recall of vehicles which come
with Takata airbags. Chrysler's recall included the passenger-side
airbags of nearly 150,000 Ram pickups, although the recall remains regional-Alabama,
Texas, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii and Georgia. The NHTSA
stated that Chrysler's recall was insufficient, failing to cover all
inflators covered by Takata's defect report.