Takata Air Bag Recall Expands To 40 Million More Vehicles

May 4, 2016
Originally published on June 2, 2016 10:51 am

Federal regulators have dramatically increased the number of vehicles to be recalled because of defective air bags made by Takata Corp. An additional 35 to 40 million air bag inflators will need to be replaced, according to regulators. The vehicles will be recalled in five stages between now and December 2019.

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The recall of Takata airbags just got a lot bigger. Federal regulators announced today that an additional 35 to 40 million airbags need to be replaced. The airbags can explode with too much force and send metal pieces flying at car occupants. The defect has been tied to at least 10 deaths and more than a hundred injuries in the U.S.

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports that the recall could now cover up to a fifth of the cars on American roads.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: The Takata airbag recall was already one of the most complicated in history. It stretched across continents and decades touching more than a dozen manufacturers. Mark Rosekind is head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA, and he said today the recall of 28 million airbags could more than double.


MARK ROSEKIND: So I'm going to make this one personal, which is my family has a Takata - vehicle with a Takata inflator that's sitting in our driveway. So I fully understand the frustration, and we are checking weekly to see when those parts are going to be available.

GLINTON: Rosekind says the government finally confirmed a root cause as to why the inflators in Takata airbags go off with too much force. A propellant ammonium nitrate becomes unstable over time when exposed to high temperatures and humidity. Rosekind says the airbags don't necessarily pose a problem when they're first installed.


ROSEKIND: Over time the combined effect of heat and moisture cause ammonium nitrate propellants to degrade at varying rates in different conditions to a point where they are no longer safe and pose an unreasonable risk and should be replaced.

GLINTON: Rosekind says the recall will occur in stages over the next three years in part because while the airbags are a potential danger, it's not always immediate. Vehicles that are older and, say, spend most of their time in areas with high temps and humidity will be targeted first.


ROSEKIND: The highest humidity, highest temperatures - we're looking at a six to nine year time period basically before we start seeing ruptures.

GLINTON: Takata has previously admitted to dragging its feet and manipulating data to help itself look better. Rosekind, the head of NHTSA says eventually it will be up to the car companies and dealers to solve the problem with pressure from consumers.


ROSEKIND: Make sure you're in touch with that dealer at least once a month, so that the pressure's on for them to see what they can do. And we have recommended trying to find a loaner. NHTSA has no authority to require loaners being made available.

GLINTON: As soon as the airbag is available, Rosekind says, get it fixed. You can find out if your car has a troublesome Takata airbag on the website recalls.gov. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.