Auto parts manufacturer has now doubled the size of its defective airbag recall. Takata has already issued a recall for 18 million airbags. This new recall will push that number to approximately 34 million. This is the largest auto recall in human history. Actually, it is probably the largest recall of anything in history.
Did you watch Game of Thrones last night? The last scene with Sansa and Ramsey was inevitable, right? This recall was even more predictable. Everyone and their mother saw this coming. Federal regulators have been pushing for this for what now seems like forever. Why didn’t they push harder? I have no idea. This has been 15 years in the making when customers first began filing complaints. The first recall was in 2008. The handwriting has long been on the wall.
Takata has reportedly also agreed to cooperate with the federal government in ongoing probes and oversight of the train wreck of an air-bag supplier. Really, I’m not sure how they stay in business. Who is buying their airbags? How are they going to pay for the lawsuits that are coming, not only from victims but from car makers?
Who Is at Risk?
If you have one of these airbags in your car, you could be at risk. The big issue is the age of the inflators and the location of the vehicle. Why? In areas of high humidity, there is a much greater chance of a defect. What is high humidity? What about a car that travels the country? These are all questions that will have to get sorted out and my guess is the sorting will not be done very intelligently. This matters because the recall might take years. How many people will get hurt or die before then?
What Is the Defect?
The defect is not fully understood by anyone, really. But it is connected to the use of ammonium nitrate pellets as the trigger for quick airbag deployment required to protect the occupant before the injury occurs. Takata switched from tetrazole to ammonium nitrate nearly 15 years ago. This made some sense. Tetrazole is far more stable than ammonium nitrate. I’m betting it is cheaper, too, although I don’t know that. But ammonium nitrate cannot handle high temperature and humidity. By “cannot handle” I mean that it can change the force by which it explodes in a way that goes beyond anything that resembles safe.
What Is Next?
Figuring out this recall has to be priority one. We need to find out which cars are at the greatest risk and get them fixed immediately.
But we also have to figure out what went wrong and why. NHTSA says it is looking to see whether Takata committed fraud and covered up; when the company knew these airbags were a dangerous disaster. But was this a cover-up in plain view? As in a shoplifter going into the store, stealing a bag of chips and looking up at the security camera and smiling as he is shoplifting? That is kind of what happened here, right?
Everyone saw that these airbags were defective. I wrote about it loud and clear. Why didn’t the government — or a company like Honda who had most of these airbags — just step and solve the problem themselves?
I feel like we never learn from these things. We need to change that. Starting with this debacle.