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Japanese auto manufacturer recalls nearly 34 million air bag inflators


May 20, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter


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In what’s being called the “largest and most complex product recalls” in United States history, Takata Corporation, a Tokyo, Japan-based supplier of automotive safety systems, has announced the recall of nearly 34 million defective air bag inflators.

The recall is being called the largest in U.S history. Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the recall on Tuesday, saying that “at the [Department of Transportation’s (DOT)] insistence, air bag manufacturer Takata has acknowledged that a defect exists in its air bag inflators.” Takata has agreed to a national recall of certain types of driver and passenger side air bag inflators, which were made with a propellant that can degrade over time and has led to ruptures that have been blamed for six deaths worldwide, the DOT said in a statement.

The DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also issued to a consent order to Takata, requiring the company to “cooperate in all future regulatory actions that NHTSA undertakes in its ongoing investigation and oversight of Takata.” In addition, NHTSA announced its intent to begin a formal legal process to organize and prioritize the replacement of defective Takata inflators under the agency’s legal authority.

“The Department of Transportation is taking the proactive steps necessary to ensure that defective inflators are replaced with safe ones as quickly as possible, and that the highest risks are addressed first,” Foxx said in the statement. “We will not stop our work until every air bag is replaced.”

In accordance with the consent order, TK Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Takata, has filed four defect information reports with NHTSA, Takata added in a press release. “The reports describe Takata’s current understanding of the long-term potential for the performance of some inflators to be affected by exposure over several years to persistent conditions of high absolute humidity, potentially in combination with other factors, including the possibility of manufacturing issues,” the release said. “Under certain conditions over time, these factors can result in the over-aggressive deployment of some inflators, which may produce a rupture of the inflator housing.”

Takata added that “the analysis to data suggests that the potential for this long-term phenomenon to occur was not within the scope of the testing specifications prescribed by the vehicle manufacturers for the validation and production of the subject inflators as original equipment.” The recall encompasses “all of the older generation of phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate driver inflators manufactured by Takata, from the start of production to the end of production. These are the inflators that have been involved in most of the field incidents where inflators have ruptured.”

The DOT said that “it’s anticipated that the remedy of vehicles will be prioritized based upon risk, with the vehicles that present the greatest risk in terms of age and geographic location to be serviced first.”

The transportation department has also established a new website to provide regular updates on the status of this and other recalls and of NHTSA’s investigation.