The heart of the Takata airbag recall revolved around the company’s use of ammonium-nitrate as a propellant in airbag inflators. The propellant deteriorates when exposed to moisture, which can occur as easily as being exposed to humidity. As it deteriorates, the propellant tends to explode with more force, potentially bursting inflator housings. To date, eight deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to faulty inflators.
Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) banned the use of amminium-nitrate fired inflators, but the ban will not go into effect until 2018. Volkswagen, Daimler, Jaguar-Land Rover and Tesla Motors are among those automakers still using ammonium-nitrate-fired airbag inflators and their continued use means this problem isn’t likely over.
NHTSA has warned these manufacturers to be vigilant despite the fact that many of these vehicles are not yet the subject of mandatory recalls. The NHTSA director put the remaining manufacturers using ammonium-nitrate inflators on notice that they should be testing their products in real world use.
Concerned about Takata’s ability to complete airbag recall repairs, Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., have asked how the airbag manufacturer will be held accountable if the U.S. unit goes under. The senators are concerned about Takata’s financial solvency, which is now at risk, and say that could result in consumers being left with defective airbags. In that event, no one will be forced to fix the problems. These concerns seem well founded. Takata’s largest customer, Honda, along with Toyota, Mazda and Nissan, have announced they would no longer be using Takata airbag components in their products due to the largest auto safety recall in history.
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