Takata Believes Evidence Doesn't Support National Recall

A December 3 rd news report stated Takata Corporation defied a U.S. safety agency's demand for a recall of potentially deadly driver's side airbags. This refusal to recall the airbags leaves many motorists worried about the safety of their vehicle, and also potentially sets the stage for governmental legal actions and sanctions. Takata claims their own internal testing supports issuing recalls only in areas with extremely high humidity, such as along the Gulf Coast. The driver's side airbags have been found to explode with extreme force, sending shrapnel shards into the passenger compartment, and resulting in at least five deaths and dozens of serious injuries. In addition, thousands of consumers are now driving cars with defective airbags that have decreased the value of their vehicles drastically.

U.S. Officials Want Recall Extended to all Fifty States-Takata Balks

On November 26 th, the United States demanded the recall be extended to all 50 states; Honda, one of Takata's biggest customers, agreed to such a recall, however other car manufacturers have not yet followed Honda's lead. Thus far, nearly 14 million vehicles, worldwide, have been recalled. Approximately 8 million of those occurred in the United States. If Takata agrees to a nationwide recall, at least another 8 million U.S. vehicles would be added to the recall list. Takata officials maintain prolonged exposure to airborne moisture causes the inflator propellant to burn to fast and explode with too much force. Takata has also contended the U.S. only has authority to demand a recall from auto manufacturers-such as Honda-but not from the original suppliers of vehicle parts.

The NHTSA calls Takata's refusal to recall all the airbags "disappointing," and is now determining what steps will be taken in response to the refusal. Civil fines up to $35 million can be imposed on Takata as well as legal action taken against the company. The NHTSA stated drivers had been injured by the defective airbags in states outside the recall zones, specifically California and North Carolina. Takata, however, seems to have dug in its heels, saying it tested 1,057 driver and passenger inflators taken from vehicles outside the high-humidity zones and none of them had ruptured. Honda, Toyota and BMW executives testified at the Congressional hearing and assured the panel that cars not subject to the current recall-even if they had a Takata airbag-were perfectly safe to drive.

Can Takata Financially Handle an Expanded Recall?

Despite this assurance, Toyota and Honda have been calling for an industry-wide investigation regarding the dangerous airbags, but had no immediate comments related to Takata's refusal to recall the airbags in all fifty states. A Nissan Motor Co. spokesman also had no comment after stating the problems are still being investigated. Toyota has asked the industry to hire an independent engineering company to determine how dangerous the airbags really are, and General Motors, Nissan, Subaru, Chrysler and Ford have agreed with that recommendation. If Takata agrees to a nation-wide recall of the airbags, vehicles may by Ford, Honda, Chrysler, Mazda and BMW, mostly 2008 models and earlier, could be affected. Since there are more than 100 million Takata airbags worldwide, and more than 30 million in the U.S. alone, there is concern over whether Takata can financially handle such a large recall.

Some Auto Manufacturers Expand their Original Recalls

On December 4 th, Chrysler, Ford and Toyota expanded the recall of vehicles which come with Takata airbags. Chrysler's recall included the passenger-side airbags of nearly 150,000 Ram pickups, although the recall remains regional-Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii and Georgia. The NHTSA stated that Chrysler's recall was insufficient, failing to cover all inflators covered by Takata's defect report.