Automakers are having a hard time keeping up with air bag recall replacements. Millions of vehicles have been recalled to replace potentially defective Takata air bag inflators that may explode upon deployment, causing serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries.
But Takata has been unable to keep up with the demand for new parts. Some automakers have enlisted other air bag manufacturers to help. Meanwhile, consumers are left waiting for important repairs, with many having no choice but to drive their vehicles with the old air bag inflators still in place.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stepped in last fall to encourage Takata and automakers to move more quickly. In addition to fining the company $70 million for its mishandling of the issue, the NHTSA set up deadlines for when the air bag manufacturer and automakers must complete their air bag replacements.
Setting a deadline doesn’t always solve the problem, though. Now, according to Automotive News, BMW has asked for and received a five-month extension on getting its air bags fixed.
BMW Gets More Time to Make Air Bag Repairs
A total of about 1.8 million potentially defective Takata air bag inflators are in BMW vehicles awaiting replacements. The NHTSA, when setting deadlines for repair completions, set as priority older vehicles (2008 and prior) that are located in hot, humid areas, as there has been some evidence that these conditions can increase the risk of a Takata air bag explosion.
Whereas all air bags were supposed to be repaired by 2019, the NHTSA has now granted BMW a five-month extension until May 31, 2020, to replace all defective PSDI-4 driver-side inflators. Affected airbags are in about 420,000 BMW vehicles, including the following:
• 2002-06 3-series models
• 2002-03 5-series models
• 2003-04 X5s
The extension effects only this particular type of inflator, though a second extension also granted the company more time to meet replacement parts supply. BMW was supposed to have parts ready for about 100,000 high-risk vehicles by March 31, but that deadline has now been pushed back to August 31.
All other automakers are still expected to meet the March 31st deadline.
Trouble with Replacement Air Bags
Why did BMW, of all automakers, receive an extension on high-risk vehicle repairs?
Apparently BMW was testing the replacement inflators, which are being supplied not by Takata, but by another air bag company. There was an “unexpected failure” in the tests, exposing another potential problem with the replacement air bags.
BMW halted production after the test to find a solution. The company is working on alternative designs. Meanwhile, BMW is repairing some vehicles with Takata-made inflators that are considered only temporary band-aids, as they will need to be replaced again later. The NHTSA has asserted that the newer Takata air bags are safer than the older ones—as time is believed to wear on the inflators and increase risk of explosion—but they are not seen as permanent solutions. It’s not only BMW that’s installing “temporary” replacements, either—many other vehicles may also require additional repairs.