The number of cars listed for Takata air bag recalls continues to grow. It’s gotten so monumental that Fortune magazine has called it a “full-blown crisis.”
Bloomberg states that regulators have expanded the air bag recalls 20 times over the past eight years, to include more than 60 million air bags in 17 different vehicles.
Where do we stand now? Though more and more vehicles continue to be added to the list, problems remain. Only about 8 million out of the 60+ million have been fixed. Some of those that have been repaired will have to be repaired again in the future, because they were installed with replacement air bags that contain the controversial propellant ammonium nitrate.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required that all inflators with this fuel that are “non-dessicated” (without moisture absorbing properties) must be replaced with inflators containing a safer, alternative fuel within the next few years.
Air Bags Linked with Over 150 Injuries
Honda remains the automaker the hardest hit by all these recalls, as it used more Takata air bags than any other company. Other automakers are also struggling, however, including Ford, Toyota, Mazda, BMW, and Audi.
Allegedly, defective Takata air bags have been linked with at least 11 deaths and over 150 injuries worldwide, but that number is expected to go up. At the end of June, for example, Honda reported that another driver-side airbag ruptured during a fatal crash in Malaysia, killing a 44-year-old woman. The vehicle was under recall, but the repairs had not been completed.
The problem is that the air bag inflators—particularly older ones that are exposed to high temperatures and high humidities—are subject to leakage, which can cause the fuel inside to become unstable. That fuel may then cause the air back to explode when deployed, sending shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle. The small knife-like shards can seriously cut and even kill drivers and passengers.
Takata and automakers are struggling to meet the demand for replacement parts, and have recruited other air bag manufacturers to help fill the demand. Takata, for instance, is using Autoliv, TRW, and Daicel to supply parts.
Recalls Going Slow—Replacements will Have to be Replaced Again
It was recently announced in the media that some automakers are still selling new cars with defective and recalled air bags. A recent report by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and others on the Senate Commerce Committee stated that four automakers are still selling some new vehicles with these airbags, meaning that consumers will have to take them back for replacements within the next two years.
According to the report summary: “To date the majority of replacement inflators that have been installed—approximately 4.6 million—are Takata ammonium-nitrate inflators. At least 2.1 million of threes replacement filters are non-dessicated—the very type of inflator that is now being recalled—and they will have to be replaced again in the future.”
The future of Takata remains in question, as the company struggles to deal with the massive recalls. Honda and Ford have stated that they will not use Takata air bags in the future.