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Takata Air Bag Recall Proceeding Slower Than Most Would Like

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Takata air bag recalls just continue to get more complicated. In a recent article in AutoNews, one vehicle owner received a notice saying he needed air bag repairs, but five months later, the parts for his Toyota were still allegedly unavailable. He continues to drive the vehicle, having little other choice, as he needs something to drive.

There’s also the question about some of the replacement air bags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has called some of them “interim fixes,” warning that they may need to be replaced again after a few years.

Takata air bags are being recalled around the country because they may explode upon deployment, subjecting occupants to a risk of serious injury.

NHTSA Cracking Down on Replacement Deadlines

On November 3, 2015, the NHTSA imposed the largest civil penalty in their history on Takata for their violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The company was ordered to pay $70 million immediately, and may face up to $130 million in additional fines if they fail to meet the requirements in the NHTSA’s order.

One of those requirements is to phase out the use of ammonium nitrate, the controversial chemical used in Takata air bags since 2001, which is believed to be potentially unstable in high temperatures and high humidities. The NHTSA believes this propellant to be unstable, and has required Takata to stop using it unless the company can prove it’s safety.

The NHTSA also gave Takata a series of deadlines by which they are to have air bags replaced in all vehicles in the U.S. Those vehicles belonging to owners who live in hot and humid areas are to be replaced first, as they are believed to be at highest risk of exploding. Other replacements will follow, with all to be completed by 2019.

2.8 Million Air Bags a Month

So far, 12 automakers are involved in Takata air bag recalls, but that may expand in the coming months. Meanwhile, critics have called on the NHTSA to enforce a speedier solution, stating that four years is too long for consumers to have to wait for replacement parts.

Because Takata and automakers waited so long to address the problem, however (the first recall related to this issue was in 2008), the recall has become extremely complicated, involving a number of auto companies and air bag suppliers. Several automakers have already started working with alternative suppliers to beef up replacement parts, but still the sheer number of potentially faulty air bags to be replaced slows the process down.

The NHTSA has stated that Takata and other air bag suppliers are currently producing replacements at a rate of 2.8 million/month. They continue to monitor the issue, and may look into ways to speed that rate up in the months to come.

Automakers Refuse to Use New Takata Air Bags

While automakers struggle to meet air bag replacement demands, many are also facing lawsuits over this issue. Takata, Honda, Toyota, and more face claims brought by plaintiffs who either were allegedly injured by a faulty air bag, or who had family members who were allegedly injured or killed.

Meanwhile, a number of automakers have decided not to purchase any more ammonium-nitrate-fueled air bags from Takata, including Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Ford.