Ohio Valley, West Virginia

HomeWest VirginiaOhio Valley

Email Eric T. Chaffin Eric T. Chaffin on Twitter Eric T. Chaffin on Facebook Eric T. Chaffin on Avvo
Eric T. Chaffin
Eric T. Chaffin
Attorney • (888) 480-1123

Members of Congress Question Takata’s Regional Approach to Airbag Recalls

Comments Off

On October 22, 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a consumer advisory warning owners of certain vehicles made by Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors vehicles “to act immediately on recall notices to replace defective Takata airbags.”

These airbags have the potential to explode with such force during activation that they burst open, showering occupants with plastic and metal fragments. The defect has been linked to five deaths and over 100 injuries so far. According to Reuters, the total number of Takata airbag recalls over the past five years comes to at least 10.5 million.

Yet some members of Congress believe that still isn’t enough. According to USA Today, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) recently sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox, encouraging a “nationwide safety recall on all the affected cars, regardless of where the car is.”

Takata Puts Regional Restrictions on Airbag Replacements

The letter was sent in direct response to the fact that Takata’s most recent recalls apply only to vehicles sold or registered in humid locations like Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Takata noted in a June 11, 2014 letter to the NHTSA that they believed exposure to high levels of humidity in these climates, along with production issues that compromised the stability of the airbags, caused certain rupture incidents.

The company agreed to replace “potentially suspect inflators in vehicles originally sold or currently registered in Florida and Puerto Rico, and other states with similar high levels of absolute humidity.” The NHTSA included states like Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana to the list in their October 2014 announcement.

Senators Blumenthal and Markey state that such regional restrictions are inadequate. “All states experience seasons of heat and humidity,” they wrote, according to the New York Times.

Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety in Sacramento, California, agreed, telling USA Today: “Cars move, people move, and it doesn’t make sense to assume the car will stay in the same place.”

Humid Conditions May Encourage Air Bag Explosions

Takata has been recalling airbags from as far back as 2001, but it was a recent test that brought up the issue of humidity. Conducted by Takata, it showed that the chemical propellant used in the inflators can, in humid conditions, absorb too much moisture. This can actually disintegrate tablets inside, triggering the explosive nature of the airbag deployments. They added that the defect seemed to apply a number of incidences in which car owners were injured or killed because of air bag shrapnel, Takata and carmakers were slow to alert the public to the danger. In spite of three ruptures reported to Honda in 2007, for example, the company didn’t issue a safety recall until late 2008. Such delays, according to the Times, kept the issue quiet, preventing other carmakers from discovering similar issues with their air particularly to passenger side air bag inflators.

The results of the study is behind the NHTSA’s new urgency, as they now work to reach car owners living and driving in humid states in the hopes of preventing further injuries.

The New York Times noted in September 2014 that despite bags, and putting millions of car owners at risk.