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NHTSA Hands Down Priority List for Accelerating Takata Air Bag Repairs

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According to Consumer Reports, more than 30 million vehicles in the U.S. have been recalled to make air bag repairs. These vehicles all contain Takata frontal air bags on either the driver or passenger sides, which maybe at risk of exploding under certain circumstances. So far, at least eight people have allegedly been killed by defective Takata air bags, and over 100 have allegedly suffered serious injuries.

As the investigation is ongoing, more vehicles are expected to be added to the recall lists, particularly after reports suggesting some newer vehicles may be affected. (Prior recalls were limited to older models, usually between 2002 and 2008.) Indeed, just recently Honda announced a recall of 515 CR-V vehicles from the 2016 model year, and GM a recall of 400 cars from the 2015 model year, for potentially defective Takata air bags.

With so many that need to be replaced, it’s no surprise that Takata and automakers have run up against problems managing the recalls. Car owners across the nation are experiencing delays for repairs sometimes lasting six months or more as dealerships struggle to get parts. According to AutoNews, the NHTSA reported in October 2015 that suppliers were producing replacements at a rate of 2.8 million a month, but even that rate hasn’t proven fast enough to meet demand.

After fining Takata a record $70 million for their mishandling of the issue, the NHTSA has set forth some action plans to help speed up repairs.

NHTSA Involved in Takata Air Bag Recalls

Prior to the NHTSA announcement of the fine in November 2015, Honda, which was the automaker most affected by Takata air bag defects, stated it had replaced 41 percent of air bags recalled. Toyota stated it had repaired 27 percent of those in so-called “high-risk” states affected by high humidities, which are believed to increase risk of air bag explosions. Fiat had replaced 7.5 percent.

In addition to the fines, Takata has agreed to NHTSA oversight for the next five years, to oversee their compliance with orders to phase-out the chemical used in the propellants, ammonium nitrate, which is believed to be unstable. The oversight will also ensure Takata’s compliance with other parts of the NHTSA order. These include a plan to accelerate recall repairs.

“We are accelerating Takata recalls to get safe air bags into American vehicles more quickly,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, “ensuring that consumers at the greatest risk are protected, and addressing the long-term risk of Takata’s use of a suspect propellant.”

NHTSA Prioritizes Air Bag Repairs to Those with Certain Characteristics

As part of their plan to better meet air bag replacement requirements, the NHTSA refers to the TREAD Act, passed in 2000, which gives them the authority to order vehicle manufacturers to accelerate their remedy of a safety defect. With that authority, the NHTSA created a Coordinated Remedy Order and issued it to Takata and 12 vehicle manufacturers.

The order provides directions on how to prioritize repairs based on risk, and establishes a schedule by which all parties must have enough parts on hand to make repairs, with deadlines spanning all the way to 2019. The agency states they will continue to oversee the process and manage future recalls with the help of an independent third-party monitor.

Considered at highest risk of exploding are air bags that are older, that “live” in areas of high absolute humidity, and that are on the driver’s side (more likely to cause fatal injuries than passenger side air bags). Vehicles with two recalled inflators on the driver and passenger sides are also believed to be at higher risk than those with just one recalled inflator.

Based on these risk factors, the NHTSA established four priority groups. Repairs will be focused on priority group one first.

  • Priority Group 1: Vehicles from model years 2008 or older that have spent time in a high absolute humidity region and have either a recalled driver-side inflator or recalled inflators on both sides. Parts must be on hand March 31, 2016, and repairs completed by December 31, 2017.
  • Priority Group 2: All vehicles with driver-side inflators not in group one and vehicles with certain passenger-side inflators that have higher rupture frequency and have spent time in a high absolute humidity region. Parts must be on hand by September 30, 2016, and repairs completed by December 31, 2017.
  • Priority Group 3: Vehicles outside high absolute humidity regions with only passenger side inflators. Parts must be on hand by December 31, 2016, and repairs completed by December 31, 2017.
  • Priority Group 4: Vehicles that were repaired but with an inflator that may contain the same defect as the original recalled inflator because alternate parts weren’t available. Repairs must be completed by December 31, 2019.

1 Comment

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  1. Vik says:
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    I have a Honda 2011 CR-V . The Airbag Light is lite!, intermittently. Is there a re-call for this case ?

    Thanks in advance fr your advice.

    Best regards,