Expanding a recall dating back to 2008, Japanese automobile airbag manufacturer Takata Corp is doubling the number of recalls for its potentially lethal product in the U.S. from 16.6 million to approximately 34 million vehicles (about one in seven of the over 250 million vehicles on American roads), which makes it the largest such recall in American history.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in conjunction with Takata state that the recall affects passenger- and driver-side airbag inflators that are installed in vehicles made by 11 automobile manufacturers.
“We are committed to continuing to work closely with NHTSA and our automaker customers to do everything we can to advance the safety of drivers,” said Shigehisa Takada, Takata’s chairman and chief executive. Takada went on to say, "We are pleased to have reached this agreement with NHTSA, which represents a clear path forward," which is somewhat curious considering that for over a decade the company has said that the airbag defect was "not officially recognized" and only agreed to expand the recall under pressure from the U.S. regulators.
To date, six deaths and over 100 injuries have been linked to Tanaka's defective airbags, the highest percentage in cars made the company's biggest customer, Honda. Other automakers that have been affected by the recall in the U.S. include Chrysler and Nissan.
The Tanaka airbags are said to explode too violently, shooting shrapnel into affected vehicles. The recalls were enacted when automakers determined that the inflators in the Tanaka airbags were improperly sealed, thus allowing moisture to seep into the propellant casing and causing the deadly problem to manifest.
NHTSA administrator Mark R. Rosekind states, “From the very beginning, our goal has been simple: a safe airbag in every vehicle,” and continued, saying “The steps we’re taking today represent significant progress toward that goal.”
Rosekind confirmed that the necessary repairs will likely require years to accomplish, but that owners of affected vehicles can still drive their cars in the interim.
The NHTSA says that the number of U.S. vehicles is preliminary and could likely change as a result of further testing. The agency also says it will "organize and prioritize the replacement of defective Takata inflators" under its legal authority.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says, "We will not stop our work until every airbag is replaced."