Massive Takata Airbag Recall Presents Problems for Car Manufacturers
The Takata air bag recall, the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, continues to expand.
The auto part recall already affects more than 45 million motor vehicles in the United States. Government officials believe that the recall could soon affect in excess of 60 million cars being driven on US roadways.
The product defect has to do with ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in the Takata air bags. When the chemical is exposed to high heat, which often happens in warm-weather climates, it becomes highly volatile. As the chemical degrades due to increased moisture and higher temperatures, the air bag becomes more prone to exploding upon impact in car accidents. These explosions can be deadly because metal shrapnel could fly out of the airbag and strike the vehicle driver or any passengers in the car.
Given the scope of the auto product recall, the fear among auto safety experts with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is that many consumers may be unknowingly driving a motor vehicle – whether it’s a car, van, truck or motorcycle – that has been recalled. Worse yet, the part defect is not always readily apparent to drivers or passengers, meaning that it’s entirely possible the victims won’t realize that anything is wrong until it is too late.
To this point, the defective airbag inflators have causes 13 deaths and more than 100 personal injuries in car accidents. It is likely that a number of wrongful death lawsuits will follow in the wake of these fatal car crashes.
An additional problem faced by NHTSA officials who want to protect consumers against fatalities and injuries is that four car manufacturers are reportedly still producing cars that contain the type of airbag inflator that prompted the recalls in the first place.
A Staggered Recall
A major issue with the massive automotive recall is that automakers simple don’t have the resources or the capacity to deal with all of the vehicles at once. Karl Brauer, senior analyst of Kelley Blue Book, put it best: “There’s no way you can recall all these cars simultaneously. You can’t snap your fingers and have 60 million air bags replaced tomorrow.”
Since automakers can’t possibly repair and replace all of the defective vehicles at the same time, certain regions of the country are being prioritized in the recall. Any recalled cars currently being driven in warmer areas of the U.S. are scheduled to be repaired first, with repairs of vehicles on the road in colder-weather regions being pushed back until later.
Another factor in the staggered motor vehicle recall is the age of the car. Recalled vehicles that were manufactured several years ago are also being prioritized because the air bags in these cars are more likely to have degraded over time.
To learn more about this major car recall, check out the following article: The Takata air bag mess: Danger and confusion mount