Takata plans to use a new style airbag inflator, replacing its current “batwing” type model that is at the center of the exploding airbag controversy for the supplier.
The company will tell members of a congressional subcommittee today it’s making the change on the driver-side airbag that is part of a recall of 33.8 million vehicles.
“The final stage of the recalls will include the replacement of batwing driver inflators that were previously installed as remedy parts in prior recalls,” said Kevin Kennedy, Takata executive vice president of North America, in written testimony released Monday. “Takata has also committed to cease producing these types of driver inflators.”
One change the company isn’t making though is the use of ammonium nitrate as the propellant in its new inflators, although many of the replacement inflators do not, he said. While no definite cause for the explosion of the airbags, which are linked to six deaths and more than 100 injuries, has been determined, there is a theory that the ammonium nitrate degrades over time, becomes unstable and causes the explosion.
Takata plans to continue using “ammonium nitrate in our propellant, which is safe and effective for use in airbag inflators when properly engineered and manufactured. We are confident that our replacement airbags are safe.”
(GM, Subaru add vehicles to growing Takata recall list. For more, Click Here.)
Most of Takata’s competitors don’t use ammonium nitrate in their airbag inflators and they are currently providing half of the replacements.
The production level of replacements is steadily increasing as well, In December, the supplier was producing approximately 350,000 kits per month. In May, it jumped to approximately 700,000 units. By September, production is expected to 1 million per month, which will be for the U.S. market.
(Click Here for details Takata issuing the largest recall in U.S. history.)
“And we continue to work with other inflator suppliers to further increase production of replacement inflators to meet anticipated demand,” Kennedy said. “In fact, half of the replacement kits we shipped to our automaker customers in May contained inflators made by our competitors.
“By the end of the year, we expect that number to reach approximately 70%. As of today, only one driver airbag replacement kit is on back order, and we will have that remedied in two weeks.”
(To see more about automakers adding vehicles to airbag recall list, Click Here.)
The company is still conducting research on the cause of the explosions, Kennedy noted, adding it has performed “ballistic tests on close to 50,000 inflators since September of last year.” The driver-side airbags are responsible for the most incidents in vehicles, including all six fatalities, according to Takata.