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Takata airbag recall hits 50 million

More and more: Up to 34 million vehicles will be recalled in the United States relating to issues with airbag inflators produced by Japanese company Takata.

Faulty airbag issue tops 50 million as Takata forced to acknowledge faults in US

21 May 2015

JAPANESE company Takata has formally acknowledged a fault with some of its airbags and agreed to double the number of vehicles recalled to almost 34 million in the United States – about 53 million globally – following pressure from the country's road safety authority.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a consent order to Takata, requiring it to comply with all future regulatory actions and investigations into its defective airbags, which are believed to be responsible for six deaths and more than 100 injuries.

The recall has expanded from regional areas in the US that experience high humidity to a national recall of more than 16 million passenger-side inflators, while the current recall of drivers side inflators has also ballooned out to more than 17 million vehicles.

In a statement on their website, NHTSA said it will prioritise the recalls by vehicle based on risk, with the models that pose the highest risk in terms of age and geographic location to be followed up first.

US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said the department would work to ensure all airbags are replaced.

“Today is a major step forward for public safety,” he said. “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. We will not stop our work until every air bag is replaced.” Earlier this week Takata Corporation confirmed its agreement with NHTSA to “take action to address public safety concerns involved in NHTSA’s investigation of Takata airbag inflators,” according to a company statement.

Automotive brands affected globally include BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, Ford, general Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

Last week GoAuto reported on an expansion of the recall to 31 million vehicles, and highlighted 392,000 vehicles that will be recalled in Australia.

About 181,000 Toyota vehicles were affected, including Echo, Yaris, Avensis Verso, RAV4 and Corollas with build dates ranging from May 2003 to March 2007, with details available on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) website.

Honda reported 109,551 of its vehicles are also being recalled, including Accord Euro models built between 2004 and 2007, 2002 to 2008 CR-Vs, Civics made between 2004 and 2005, and some Jazz models built between 2004 and 2009.

The latest announcement that brings the total to 34 million has not impacted Toyota's Australian recall numbers. Nissan is now up to 119,000 vehicles affected, which has increased significantly compared with the 37,300 announced in 2013 and 2014.

Nissan said in a statement that it had added model year 2004 to 2007 vehicles equipped with 'SPI' inflators, and has detailed the models affected.

“The Nissan models in Australia that are affected by these recall actions are: N16 Pulsar, D22 Navara, Y61 Patrol, T30 X-TRAIL, and A33 Maxima. Nissan is in the process of studying the exact vehicles to be recalled under this latest 119,000-vehicle recall action.”

As with Toyota and Honda, Nissan is in the process of contacting affected customers but anyone seeking information is advised to call the respective company's customer service line.

While it is believed the fault causes shrapnel to spray throughout the cabin upon inflation, the NHTSA says that despite testing and investigation by Takata, affected car-makers and independent researchers, a definitive cause for the defect is yet to be determined.

However, NHTSA's data suggests that a major factor is moisture permeating the defective inflators over extended time periods.

“Over time, that moisture causes changes in the structure of the chemical propellant that ignites when an air bag deploys. The degraded propellant ignites too quickly, producing excess pressure that causes the inflator to rupture and sends metal shards into the passenger cabin that can lead to serious injury or death,” according to the NHTSA website.

Meanwhile, the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) has used the massive global recall to take a swing at the federal government's decision to consider relaxing its stance on personal import vehicles – or so-called parallel imports – suggesting that a change in law could create confusion for consumers in the case of safety recalls.

AADA CEO Patrick Tessier questioned who would be responsible for actioning recalls if private importing is given the green light.

“Will safety be the price we pay for a relaxation of Government policy? A PIV purchased outside the authorised dealer network would not be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty and could not be traced in the event of a recall,” he said.

“Will the Government take responsibility for, and bear the costs of, ensuring defects such as faulty airbags are remedied on a PIV? The dealer network in Australia cannot be held liable to remedy defects in respect of a recall of a PIV. We take full responsibility for the products we sell.

“A PIV purchased from an overseas supplier or via a faceless internet transaction may initially seem attractive in terms of pricing and choice, but carries a number of ownership risks including safety that must be assumed by a consumer. AADA would strongly object to any attempt to transfer any ownership risk associated with a PIV onto the authorised dealer network.

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