A 10th fatality has been linked to faulty Takata airbags, prompting the recall of millions of additional vehicle sold in the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind had signaled the likelihood of a further expansion of the Takata recall last week. The agency has since revealed that U.S. recalls, on the whole, hit a new record in 2015, with the problem with the Japanese supplier’s airbags a major reason why.
Up to now, 23 million airbag inflators produced by Takata were targeted, impacting 19 million vehicles. The new recall involves another 5 million inflators, but NHTSA could not immediately say how many vehicles are affected.
The latest announcement covers eight different manufacturers: Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, Daimler, Audi, Mazda, Saab and BMW. Some have used the Takata inflators in models sold by multiple brands.
“This is a massive safety crisis,” said NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge.
(First ignition case against GM dismissed after plaintiffs caught lying. For more, Click Here.)
The latest announcement comes as NHTSA confirms a tenth driver was killed as a result of the Takata defect, which can cause airbags to inflate over-aggressively following a crash. That, in turn, can send shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment.
While most of the prior deaths have involved Honda vehicles, the latest occurred when a 2006 Ford Ranger pickup ran off the road in North Carolina and hit an obstruction.
“We are saddened to hear about the driver’s death and offer our sincere condolences to the family of the driver,” said Ford spokesman John Cavangany.
NHTSA has been pressing all of the automakers who have done business with Takata to see if they have used any of the inflators thought to be at risk.
In turn, the agency is now advising motorists to check to see if their vehicles are on the known recall list. They can go either to the NHTSA website, SaferCar.gov, or to the websites operated by individual manufacturers.
The Takata problem has been escalating since the first recall was announced in 2013. The supplier was pulled before Congress four times, and then heavily fined last year for dragging its feet on the problem, Takata ultimately accepting a consent order that requires it to revise its safety procedures. If it does not live up to the agreement it could face additional fines.
But there is growing concern the company could go bankrupt, as a number of its customers have been dropping the supplier.
The latest recall comes just as NHTSA confirms that a record number of vehicles, about 51.2 million in total, were recalled in 2015. That’s the second consecutive record and, as much as anything, it reflects the increasing pressure the auto industry is under to respond quickly to potential problems.
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Among the makers fined for delaying recalls last year were Toyota, Honda, General Motors and BMW.
The recently passed U.S transportation bill, meanwhile, allows for a tripling of fines to a maximum $105 million per incident.
(To see more about the safety consortium between the feds and 18 automakers, Click Here.)
The latest recall does not ensure the Takata problem is over, stressed Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “Manufacturers need to exhaustively research and aggressively reach out to owners to get the airbags fixed,” she said. “Every brand should not assume they are immune from this unless they know 100 percent they’ve never contracted with Takata at any level. This is a widespread issue and there could be many dangerous vehicles unwittingly on the road.”
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