Faulty airbag recall largest in U.S. history

Takata Corp. has agreed to recall approximately 34 million vehicles due to defective airbags. The recall makes it the largest in U.S. history.

The company agreed to the recall after mounting pressure from federal regulators during the past year.

Takata Corp. is a Japanese auto parts and airbag manufacturing company. The company was fined $14,000 US per day since late February for not cooperating with the Department of Transportation’s investigation into defective air bag inflators. So far, the company’s fine totals more than $1.2 million.

“Safety is a shared responsibility and Takata’s failure to fully cooperate with our investigation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation secretary, said in  announcing the fines. “For each day that Takata fails to fully cooperate with our demands, we will hit them with another fine.”

Takata issued a statement saying it was “surprised and disappointed” by the federal action.

“We have also been meeting regularly with NHTSA engineers on efforts to identify the root cause of the inflator issue,” Takata said. “That work has, so far, supported our initial view that age and sustained exposure to heat and humidity is a common factor in the small number of inflators that have malfunctioned.”

Heads of the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced they have reached an agreement with Takata.

Some inflators, which use an explosive charge to quickly inflate the air bag to provide a cushion for vehicle occupants in a crash, are blowing apart, sending shrapnel into the cabin. The faulty inflators have been the cause of six deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.

Eleven automakers who use Takata Corp.’s airbags — including Toyoto and Honda —  have recalled more than 17 million vehicles in the U.S. and more than 36 million worldwide because of the faulty airbags.

This latest move by Takata will double the amount of already recalled vehicles.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said agency investigations have yet to determine what the exact problem is with what’s causing the inflators to explode. He also said they cannot wait for a cause before taking action.

“We know that owners are worried about their safety and the safety of their families,” he said. “This is probably the most complex consumer safety recall in U.S. history.”

Rosekind says that people who are receiving recall notices in the mail should make an appointment immediately to have their cars fixed.