Airbag recall in U.S.
DETROIT (AP) – The federal government is demanding that the auto industry recall millions of additional cars equipped with faulty air bags that can injure, and even kill a driver.
The action today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) covers driver’s side air bags equipped with inflators made by Takata Corp. of Japan. The inflators can erupt and send metal fragments into the passenger compartment.
Previously, cars with the inflators had been recalled only in regions with high humidity such as Gulf Coast states, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Takata has said that prolonged exposure to moisture can cause the air bag propellant to burn faster than designed, causing the problem.
Up until now, about eight million cars in the U.S. with Takata inflators have been recalled for problems with either the driver or passenger side air bag, or both. Another four million have been recalled outside the U.S. At least five deaths worldwide have been linked to the problem.
Safety regulators say today’s action is based on incidents involving a death in California and an injury in North Carolina where the air bags were implicated. Both states are outside of the area covered by the earlier recalls.
“One can be an anomaly. Two becomes a trend, and we feel we need to act,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman.
Lawmakers have pressured the government to expand the recall to all 50 states as reports of deaths and injuries emerged. While they’ll partly get their wish, the expanded recall won’t cover passenger air bags, at least not yet.
Also, car owners may run into a problem: a limited number of replacement parts. Takata is struggling to make enough replacement air bag inflators to handle the smaller regional recalls and likely will have trouble supplying demand for a nationwide recall. The company has promised to add two production lines by the start of next year to make more inflators, Friedman said on a conference call following the government’s recall statement.