The seemingly never-ending safety concerns of the automotive industry have been further complicated by the vastly expanded airbag recall involving parts made by Takata.
At risk, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are now as many as nearly 70 million vehicles from nearly every major and some niche manufacturers.
The expansion primarily affects passenger-side inflators not covered by previous recalls. It will also cover inflators in vehicles made by Jaguar-Land Rover, Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive for the first time. Fourteen other auto companies, including American Honda, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, General Motors, Nissan and Fiat-Chrysler already are affected by the original recall.
Takata is already is responsible for replacing 29 million faulty inflators already involved with the largest recall campaign in U.S. history. The expanding recall, which including 35 to 40 million vehicles, covers all Takata inflators using an ammonium nitrate propellant that lacks a chemical additive to prevent moisture absorption, known as a desiccant.
After reviewing three investigations into the root cause of the defect by Honda, Takata and a group of 10 automakers, NHTSA confirmed several years of exposure to moist air and fluctuations between high and lower temperatures degrades the ammonium nitrate propellant.
When degraded, the propellant can explode with too much force when an airbag deploys, rupturing its container and spraying vehicle occupants with metal shards.
NHTSA says the inflators do not pose an “unreasonable risk to safety” until they reach “a certain level of propellant degradation.”
The defect has been linked to 10 U.S. deaths and more than 100 injuries over the last several years, and the death toll has continued to mount.
Honda Motor Co. confirmed two additional fatalities in April and May, both in Malaysia, involving a driver-side Takata airbag rupture.
The expansions announced today will take place in five phases prioritized by risk, starting in May and continuing through December 2019. Older vehicles in hot, humid climates will receive higher priority for replacement parts than newer vehicles in less-humid climates.
Takata, responding in a statement, said it’s unaware of any ruptures reported in the inflators covered by the expansion, either in the field or in lab testing. It agreed to the larger recall in deference to the “shared interest” of Takata and NHTSA for “future safety and restoring public confidence.”
According to automakers and the NHSTA, 14 carmakers in the original recall, have replaced some 8.17 million defective Takata inflators.