Despite years of dealership repairs, nearly 10 million of the highest risk Takata air bag inflators have still not been replaced, according to the latest documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These are the air bags that “live” in hot and humid areas, and which are believed to be most vulnerable to changes that can result in air bag rupture.
Takata air bags have been linked to at least 18 deaths worldwide and nearly 200 injuries. The fuel used in the inflators can become unstable, particularly with age and when exposed to high temperatures and humidities. An exploding air bag can send tiny shards of metal and plastic into the interior of the vehicle, and can cause serious injuries including knife-like wounds that can lead to fatal bleeding.
Too Many High-Risk Air Bag Inflators Still Not Repaired
According to a report by ABC News, the NHTSA wanted all of these “high-risk” air bag inflators replaced by the end of 2017, but now it looks like that may not happen. Older air bags in vehicles located in hot and humid areas like Florida were marked as high priority by the administration, which encouraged Takata and automakers to focus on getting these risky air bag inflators replaced as soon as possible.
An analysis of completion rates by the Associated Press shows that considering the current level of progress, automakers won’t meet the December 31, 2017 deadline to finish priority-one replacements. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) stated, “The long and short of it is the recall is failing.”
New Recalls Increasing Pressure on Automakers
A total of 46 million Takata airbag inflators have been recalled, but automakers have replaced only about 16 million. Additional recalls were announced in early July, after internal tests prompted Takata to declare an additional 2.7 million inflators defective in Ford, Nissan, and Mazda vehicles.
This latest recall came as a surprise to many, as they involve air bag inflators that have a moisture absorbent in them called a “desiccant.” This was supposed to help absorb moisture that could cause the fuel to become unstable, so air bags with the ingredient were thought to be safe.
“Takata has told the public that their line of air bag inflators with moisture absorbent was safe,” said Senator Nelson. “This recall now raises serious questions about the threat posed by all of Takata’s ammonium nitrate-based airbags. If even more are found to be defective, it will take us from the biggest recall ever to something that could become mind-boggling.”
Factors Affecting Takata Recall Repairs
The effort to get all air bags repaired has struggled because of a lack of new inflators. Takata, automakers, and other air bag manufacturers have all become involved in trying to make enough new parts to satisfy demand. As a result, many of the replacement parts still have ammonium nitrate in them and will have to be replaced again with parts that are made with an alternate fuel.
Even desiccated inflators, which were previously believed to be safe, may now also need to be replaced if future testing suggests that they, too, are vulnerable to changes that can increase the risk of rupture. Newer air bag inflators, however, are considered safer than older ones, regardless of the fuel used, so the NHTSA allowed automakers to use this option for now.
The other issue is getting consumers to bring their vehicles in for repairs. Automakers say they are upping their efforts to increase awareness and to let vehicle owners know of the need for replacements. Consumers are advised to take action, as older air bags still present a risk of injury and/or death. To see if your vehicle is affected by the recall, use the NHTSA’s VIN Search.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.