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NHTSA Considers Aggressive Action to Speed Up Air Bag Repairs

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported in February 2015 that nearly 90 percent of vehicles with defective Takata air bags had still not been repaired. This is a big concern, since these air bags may explode upon deployment, sending shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle and potentially causing serious injuries and even death.

Edmunds, too, reported that though 17 million vehicles have been recalled because of defective Takata air bags, only about 2 million had been fixed.

Takata has plans to double its production of replacement parts, but they still predict it will take up to two years to manufacture enough to satisfy all recalls.

The NHTSA is now considering taking additional steps to speed up the process of getting new air bag inflators into consumers’ vehicles.

NHTSA May Use Authority Granted by the Safety Act

According to a recent report in AutoNews, the NHTSA sent a letter dated March 3, 2015, to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla), stating they “had the authority to increase supply of replacement parts by requiring more manufacturers to produce them.”

The NHTSA was granted this authority in 2000, when Congress amended the Safety Act, but it has so far never used it. Some believe the administration is considering such an aggressive step now because of the criticism levied against them for their lack of action concerning Takata air bag and GM ignition switch defects.

Back in October 2014, the NHTSA urged Takata and automakers to expand air bag recalls nationwide. Up to that point, recalls had been limited to hot and humid areas, where it was believed that the air bags were more vulnerable to malfunction.

Takata resisted recall expansions, claiming that they had no evidence they were necessary, but most automakers, including Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler, have expanded their recalls of driver’s side Takata air bags to all 50 states. Finding the parts, however, has been a challenge. Recently, Honda announced it had reached an agreement with air bag manufacturer Autoliv to expand their production to help meet recall demand.

A Honda spokesman told AutoNews that any additional action by the NHTSA was unnecessary, as they are already working with additional manufacturers to address the supply issue.

NHTSA Keeping a Close Eye on Takata

The NHTSA is keeping a close eye on Takata’s testing processes, as the company continues to investigate the cause of the air bag malfunctions. In addition to performing no-notice visits as part of their monitoring activities, the administration has access to the results of other independent tests being performed on the inflators. (A group of 10 automakers, for example, is also conducting independent tests on the air bags).

The administration also ordered Takata in February 2015 to preserve all inflators for investigation and private litigation. Plaintiffs who have filed air bag lawsuits against the company will now have access to recalled air bags for independent testing as well.

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    […] Legal Examiner (4/20) reports NHTSA said in February that nearly 90% of vehicles “with defective Takata air bags […]