With continued pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Takata Corp. has now doubled the amount of cars and trucks included in what has been called, “the largest auto recall in U.S. history.” The total has reached 33.8 million cars with defective air bags.
The original recall was limited to the passenger-side air bag in only high-humidity states along the Gulf Coast (including Florida). Now the recall has expanded nationwide affecting an additional 10.2 million vehicles. Also included in this new agreement is an additional 7.9 million vehicles that will repair the air bags on the driver’s side. The original recall was for passenger-side air bags.
The chemical that inflates the air bags can explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal inflator and sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment. The faulty inflators are responsible for six deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.
Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declared, “This is probably the most complex consumer safety recall in U.S. history. We know that owners are worried about their safety and the safety of their families.”
Originally, getting Takata to do the right thing and declare their inflators defective took safety regulators years. Takata even questioned the agency’s authority to order it to conduct a recall. NHTSA warned that the number of affected air bags could climb even higher.
Car owners who receive recall notices in the mail should schedule an appointment immediately to get their cars repaired. To find out if your car is one of the cars recalled, you can enter your vehicle identification number (VIN) at https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/ to see if your car is included in the recall. The VIN number can be found on the dashboard near the driver’s side windshield and on state auto registration documents.
Earlier this year, NHTSA started implementing stiff fines to Takata at $14,000 per day for failing to cooperate in the investigation. The fine reached more than $1.2 million, but was eventually suspended when Takata began to cooperate fully. NHTSA officials said that other civil penalties are still possible.
The recall will cost Takata millions of dollars and it will be a while before Takata and other companies can manufacture all the needed replacement inflators. What happens until then? High-humidity areas where people are most at risk and older cars will be fixed first, followed by the others.
What does Takata have to say? It seems like they are finally on the right path. Takata CEO, Shigehisa Takada said in a statement that the action is a “clear path” to restoring the trust of automakers and drivers. Takata also said that they are committed to continuing to work closely with NHTSA and their automaker customers to do everything they can to advance the safety of drivers. We’ll have to wait and see.
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