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NHTSA May Order Other Air Bag Manufacturers to Help Supply Recall Repairs

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been after Takata to expand its air bag recalls for over a year. The company resisted until this past June, when they agreed to increase its recalls to incorporate vehicles in every state. Prior to that, it had limited repairs to vehicles in regional areas prone to high temperatures and high humidities, which the company believed were major factors in causing the defective air bags to explode.

Even after the expansion, critics continued to push the company to do more. After the NHTSA announced it was investigating a more recent air bag explosion in a 2015 Volkswagen—a vehicle not currently included in the recalls—Congressmen Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Ed Markey (Massachusetts), requested Takata recall all vehicles with their airbags in them, until they can get to the bottom of the issue.

The NHTSA, as well, has scheduled a public hearing for October to present potential strategies for organizing the recalls, since right now multiple automakers and Takata recalls are proceeding in various stages, which may leave some vehicles falling through the cracks. Above all is the issue of replacement parts—are they safer than the originals, and will there be enough to repair all of the vehicles?

Concerns Remain About Safety of New Air Bags

The NHTSA is very concerned at this point that the recalls fix the problem so that no more drivers have to suffer serious injuries after an airbag explodes. According to Reuters, NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters that the agency has held meetings with Takata and 11 automakers about the recalls, stating, “We need to be sure the priorities are clear, make sure the supplies are going to be available, make sure the quality assurance is taken care of. The remedy has to work.”

Some remain concerned that the propellant “ammonium nitrate,” which was used in older Takata air bags and in some new ones is an unstable chemical that may have contributed to some of the explosions. According to the New York Times, as far back as 1995, some employees expressed concern over the compound, stating it was vulnerable to temperature changes that under excessive pressure, “might even blow up.”

Yet the company started using the chemical in 2001, and is still using it in some of their replacements. They are the only air bag manufacturer that’s doing so. Fiat Chrysler has stated it will not use the Takata products for its recalls for this very reason. Fiat is using TRW Automotive products instead.

NHTSA May Order Other Air Bag Manufacturers to Help

Meanwhile, the NHTSA still has the option to order other air bag manufacturers to help produce replacement products for the recalls. Though it hasn’t done that yet, it is examining the issue to see if such a move might be necessary.

So far, Takata air bags have been linked with eight deaths and over 100 injuries. The NHTSA hopes to increase awareness of the dangers to encourage consumers to take their vehicles in for repairs.

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  1. David DeVeau says:
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    There are much safer propellant chemical alternatives too. They may be a few microseconds slower to fill the airbag but the difference in speed can easily be justified when overall safety is increased with a microsecond separable occupant compartment safety cage when the trigger is activated by the collision mechanically instead of only being interpreted by the computer.