Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation and airbag manufacturer, TK Holdings, Inc. (“Takata”), entered into a Consent Order wherein Takata acknowledged that a defect exists in its airbag inflators. Takata agreed to a recall of certain of its driver and passenger-side airbags and “to cooperate in all future regulatory actions and proceedings that are part of the NHTSA’s ongoing investigation and oversight of the Takata Inflators and accompanying remedial actions.”
According to press releases on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, analysis of test results and engineering reports suggest that moisture can enter defective Takata airbag inflators over time. The moisture alters the chemical propellant that ignites when the airbag deploys. The defective airbag propellant can ignite too quickly, causing the airbag inflator to rupture and send shards of metal into the passenger cabin of a vehicle, resulting in injury or death.
On May 18, 2015, Takata filed four “Defect Information Reports,” or “DIRs,” with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to Takata’s DIRs, the company describes the problem with its air bags as “propellant wafers in some of the subject [air bag] inflators may experience an alteration over time, which could potentially lead to over-aggressive combustion in the event of an air bag deployment.”
As part of its agreement with the Department of Transportation, Takata has until July 17, 2015, to submit to the NHTSA a plan outlining the steps the company will take, independently and working with affected auto manufacturers, to achieve the objectives under the Consent Order. These include proposing a plan to: (i) maximize completion for all recalls involving Takata frontal airbag inflators; and, (ii) provide NHTSA with test data regarding the service life and safety of the remedy inflators currently being manufactured by Takata.
According to the Department of Transportation, defective Takata airbags may result in the recall of approximately 34 million vehicles. This means that the Department will oversee one of the largest and most complex auto product recalls in history. More information regarding the Takata recall is available at www.safercar.gov/recallsspotlight.