Several automakers are recalling millions of vehicles in the U.S. with a specific type of frontal airbag inflators manufactured by Takata Corporation, an automotive parts company based in Japan. Included in the list of manufacturers are General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford, Daimler Vans, BMW, Jaguar-Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz whose recalls were posted on Thursday by the government. Additionally, there are eight other companies that also have vehicle recalls. General Motors had the largest number of recalls with 1.9 million consisting of mostly of pickup trucks and large SUVs. These recent recalls add to the initial massive recall of Takata products announced in April 2013.
Currently, there are seventeen automakers recalling 35 to 40 million airbag inflators in the largest auto recall in U.S. history. Initially, Takata blamed the malfunction on workers mishandling and improperly storing propellant chemicals, which caused the inflators to explode due to extreme pressure. However, it was later found that the typical malfunction that occurs with the Takata inflators is related to high temperatures and humidity. Repeated cycles of high temperatures and low temperatures can deteriorate the can containing ammonium nitrate, which is responsible for inflating the airbags. This corrosion then can blow apart the metal can and eject hot metal shrapnel into the vehicles. Although this seems to be the main issue with the inflators, Takata also attributes some malfunctions to rust, bad welds, and stray chewing gum dropped into at least one inflator. These malfunctions have caused at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries in total. The series of recalls were initially agreed upon in early May by Takata; however, they are being announced in several phases due to a deficiency of replacement parts. The recalls include models made from the early 2000s up to the newest models. Across all models, automakers had recalled 28.8 million Takata inflators before its most current recall expansion. This means that as many as 69 million vehicles could be recalled in the United States alone. There are also reports that Takata knew about problems with its air bag inflator since 2004.
The New York Times reports that the corporation completed secret tests to confirm the issue. It was found that Takata attempted to cover up its findings by ordering the engineers to solve the problem but also destroy data of the findings without informing federal safety regulators. What’s interesting to note is that the inflators themselves are not being recalled. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration simply made a statement that the inflators should be replaced. Therefore it is still technically legal for cars with the inflators to be sold. Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen currently still have new vehicles with Takata airbag inflators on the market. Although this is true, these inflators will likely still be recalled in the upcoming years. Federal officials have given Takata and automakers until December 2019 to either replace the inflators or prove that they are, in fact, safe. With this massive recall, the future of Takata has been a matter of concern. Last month, the company hired investment bank Lazard Ltd to aid in its monetary restructuring to resolve expenses from the multitude of recalls.
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