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Takata Ramps Up Air Bag Production—Still Behind on Repairs

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Takata has been struggling to meet demand for replacement parts. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as of February 2015, nearly 90 percent of vehicles with defective Takata air bags had still not been repaired.

Some of the problem is that owners are not aware that their vehicles need to be fixed. But that hasn’t been the only issue. Many owners have gone into their auto dealers for recall repairs only to be told they have to wait several weeks or longer for replacement parts to come in. That leaves them driving around in cars, trucks, and SUVs in which the air bag may explode and cause serious injury and even death.

Takata Ramps Up Air Bag Replacement Production

According to a report in Edmunds, about “17 million vehicles with defective Takata air bags have been recalled since 2008,” but only about 2 million have been fixed.

“Many affected owners are learning that it may take weeks or months for their replacement air bags to arrive,” says Consumer Reports. “Takata’s assembly lines are at maximum capacity,” but even with the higher production rate, the company has fallen behind demand.

Japan Today reported on March 3, 2015, that the company plans to double its production of replacement parts over the next six months. They add that they have already increased from 350,000 per month to 450,000 per month, and plan to go to 900,000 per month by September 2015. Still, the company has estimated that it will take up to two years to manufacturer enough replacement parts to satisfy all recalls.

Takata Leaves Much of Air Bag Replacements Up to Automakers

Some automakers aren’t waiting for Takata to catch up. In December 2014, Honda—which has been most affected by Takata air bag recalls—announced it had partnered with another supplier, Autoliv, for replacement parts. The announcement came as sort of a surprise, as it was believed before that changing suppliers would only create additional delays in supplying the parts. Honda assured customers, however, that Autoliv had found ways to use their existing factories to make the new parts, and that they would be able to deliver in six months.

Honda will most likely need as many replacements as it can get its hands on. At the urging of the NHTSA last fall, they expanded previous regional recalls of Takata airbags to go nationwide. The NHTSA urged Takata to do the same, but they refused, stating they had seen no evidence that such an expansion was necessary. According to their internal company tests, air bags were most at risk in areas of high temperature and humidity, so they have focused recalls on areas like Florida and Puerto Rico.

Critics argue that some of the accidents involving exploding air bags have occurred in drier areas, and that Takata is risking public safety by limiting recalls, but Takata has refused to budge.

Automakers like Honda, therefore, have had to absorb the slack. At least five, including BMW, Chrysler, Ford, and Mazda, have launched national recalls. Currently, a group of 10 automakers are conducting their own independent tests on the air bags to try to determine exactly what is causing them to malfunction.