Takata is feeling the heat from federal safety regulators who are pushing the Japanese supplier to speed up the production of components necessary to repair the 7.8 million vehicles recalled due to their faulty airbags.
David Friedman, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sent a letter to the supplier telling it to expedite the production of replacement inflators as well as informing Takata that it is insisting automakers that used the airbags make every effort to get the repairs done as quickly as possible, including extending service hours at its dealerships.
Letters were sent to Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Ford, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, BMW and Chrysler Group. Additionally, the agency wants to meet weekly with Takata executives weekly, according to a separate letter, Bloomberg reported.
The supplier’s airbags in the recalled vehicles can blast passengers with plastic and metal shrapnel. Four deaths have been attributed to the faulty airbags. Three lawsuits, including a pending class action suit, have been filed against Takata and several automakers.
Friedman also asks Takata in the letter how many replacements it can build and how it may increase production levels. He also asks if other suppliers may be able to help with the production.
(Takata hit with major lawsuit as recall could triple in size. For more, Click Here.)
In addition to replacing air bags, Friedman says Takata has to stay aggressive in testing to identify any other air bags that could be potentially defective. NHTSA says it has pledged to double its testing program.
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NHTSA’s efforts may be a result of the pressure being exerted on the agency by Congress. The agency met with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week to answer questions about why it took regulators so long to act and if the actions they’ve taken – a regional recall instead of a national action – are appropriate.
(To get details on the latest recalls by Chrysler and Ford, please Click Here.)
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been asked by committee members to review NHTSA’s ability to investigate defects in new automotive technology. The audit request is mainly tied to NHTSA’s handling of the GM ignition-switch recalls earlier this year, Bloomberg reports.
Six lawmakers, in a letter to the GAO, said NHTSA “lacked a comprehensive understanding of vehicle systems the agency is responsible for regulating.”