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NHTSA Demands Industry-Wide Recall of Driver’s Side Takata Airbags

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After years of piecemeal recalls that left consumers scratching their heads as to just whether or not their vehicles were affected by airbag defects, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has demanded an industry-wide recall for all U.S. vehicles with airbags made by Takata.

The demand came on November 18, 2014, just a few months after Takata told the administration in June 2014 that it would replace defective parts in affected vehicles from humid climates like Georgia, Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Company tests had shown that humid conditions, coupled with other problems in the air bag inflators, could increase risk of explosion upon deployment. Such explosions have so far been linked with five deaths and over 100 injuries.

Such a limited recall, however, has been criticized by Congressmen and safety groups. Car owners move around the country, and even those who live in dry climates could find themselves exposed to humidity either through travel or changing weather conditions.

Now, Takata, as well as 10 car manufacturers, must comply with the NHTSA’s order to recall all vehicles with the driver’s-side defective airbag inflators.

NHTSA Demands Compliance with Order

According to ABC News, this latest step by the NHTSA is in response to two more accidents related to the airbag defect. One occurred in California, and the other in North Carolina—both states that were not included in Takata’s earlier “humid climate” recall.

The new recall affects vehicles produced before 2008, with NHTSA’s order send to BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota. The administration has yet to create a detailed list of all vehicles affected.

Takata and the car makers must produce responses to the administration’s order by December 5, 2014. These must include all related documents concerning Takata inflators. Company representatives must also sign these responses under oath, and accompany them with an affidavit signed by “a responsible officer,” assuring that the answers are complete and correct.

The NHTSA sent a special order to Takata, as well, directing it to provide all documents and information related to the propellant used in the problematic airbags, which could potentially be a factor in those incidences where the bags explode, rupture, and spread shrapnel into the vehicle and onto the occupants.

Failure to respond to the order may result in fines for the manufacturers of up to 7,000 a day, up to a maximum of $35 million.

Recall Doesn’t Affect Passenger-Side Airbags

This recall affects only driver’s side airbags. Passenger side airbags are made differently, and so far, tests have not shown them to have the same problems. Some car makers, however, have issued recall notices anyway to owners that live in humid climates, just in case they could be at risk.
Some Congressmen have called for nationwide passenger-side airbag recalls, as well.