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Feds Put Hammer Down on Takata over Deadly Airbags

NHTSA orders supplier to issue national recall or face fines.

by on Nov.26, 2014

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today ordered Takata to expand its airbag recall to a national action.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials today made good on their earlier threat to force Takata Corp. to issue a national recall of all vehicles in the U.S. equipped with its potentially deadly airbags or face that will quickly escalate into the millions of dollars.

In a letter to Takata officials, the agency told the supplier it had until Dec. 2 to comply with its demand or it face a fine of $7,000 per vehicle per day. Takata hasn’t issued a response to the letter.

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“NHTSA is issuing this recall request letter to notify you that the agency has tentatively concluded that a defect related to motor vehicle safety exists on a national basis in the subject driver’s side air bag inflators, and to demand that Takata recall the inflators,” Frank Borris, who heads NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation, wrote in the letter to Takata.

The supplier’s airbags can explode with such force that plastic and metal shrapnel is sent flying into the cabin of the vehicle causing injury and even death. At least five deaths and more than 30 injuries have been attributed to the problem.

While the Dec. 2 deadline looms large, it’s not the end of the process. If Takata refuses to expand the recall, NHTSA’s next step would be to issue an initial decision demanding a recall and schedule a public hearing.

If after the hearing, the company still refuses to comply, then the agency would have to go to court to enforce the recall demand.

The airbags in question are currently subject to a regional recall in areas of the country with high humidity and affects 7.8 million vehicles. However, there have been documented cases of the problem occurring in areas outside of those “high-humidity regions” in recent weeks.

(Honda admits to under-reporting crash numbers. For more, Click Here.)

Last week, NHTSA asked Takata and five automakers — Honda Motor Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, Mazda Motor Co. and BMW AG — to issue nationwide recalls for millions of vehicles with driver-side air bags. None have agreed to do so, although Honda has been quietly repairing any vehicles brought to dealers for the issue regardless of location.

(Click Here for details about plans to bar registration of cars not repaired after recalls.)

The supplier also maintains a national recall isn’t warranted. It further claims that if the recall were expanded to a national scale, it would divert the needed parts from the areas where the need is the greatest.

NHTSA argues in the letter that it’s asked the supplier for evidence supporting its assertion that the national recall isn’t necessary and Takata failed to reply.

(To see more about practical approach to recovery by Lotus, Click Here.)

“Despite the severe consequences of airbag ruptures and mounting data demonstrating a safety defect, Takata responded that it did not agree with NHTSA’s basis for a nationwide recall of driver’s side airbags. Takata also continues to disclaim any finding of a safety-related defect,” Norris wrote in the letter.

“However, Takata has not provided any new information to support its position that a regional recall is appropriate, nor has Takata provided any explanation for driver side airbag ruptures that have occurred outside the areas of high absolute humidity.”

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2 Responses to “Feds Put Hammer Down on Takata over Deadly Airbags”

  1. Wow. Even things that are supposed to save you, can kill you.

  2. Jorge says:

    Actually I believe that only the auto makers who used the Takata airbags can issue a recall to consumers. Takata can issue a recall notice and request to the auto makers but I don’t believe Takata has any means to force a recall unless they sue the car makers – if the car makers were to actually not cooperate with a requested recall.

    I am aware that some Takata officials publicly claim there are no safety issues with the installed airbags of discussion. That is unlikely to fly in court however.

    As noted previously, Takata has acknowledged they can not meet demand for replacement airbags for the first wave of millions of vehicles, so they have reportedly contacted other airbag suppliers to see if they can assist. This may cause a lot of issues as far as warranty and fitment in addition to being a very long drawn out recall – if Takata doesn’t fold it’s tent and close their doors.