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Takata’s Defective Airbags Become The Biggest Auto Recall Ever

Throughout the history of automotive recalls, the federal government has focused its efforts primarily on the car companies. It was their job, not that of the federal government, to make sure their vehicles were made from properly made parts. And, if those parts failed, it was the car company’s responsibility to punish the supplier, either in lost business or a stern finger pointing.

That all changed on Tuesday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reached a deal with Japan’s Takata Corp. involving 33.8 million faulty airbag inflator mechanisms. That essentially doubles the number of vehicles have that been recalled for the defective systems.

The agreement came after months of wrangling between the government and the Japanese auto supplier. In terms of vehicles affected, it is the largest automotive recall in NHTSA history. It is also one of the largest consumer product recalls in history, according to CNN.

No big fine was announced, in part because the government is already fining Takata. But those figures could be miniscule compared with what Takata could face in lawsuits.
Ten global automakers, including Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., have recalled 17 million vehicles in the U.S. and more than 36 million worldwide because of the defect.

Those numbers are likely to grow significantly because of the NHTSA-Takata agreement, but it isn’t certain which companies will recall which vehicles. Despite the deal, the car companies still have to conduct the recalls.

Essentially, the Takata airbags inflate with too much force, blowing apart the metal canister containing the bag, and potentially injuring the driver and passengers. The airbags are responsible for six deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.

Regulators say they still don’t know what is causing the airbags to inflate so forcefully, which will stymie efforts to diagnose the issue and keep it from recurring. Said Mark Rosekind, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “When are we going to find out? We don’t know. [But] we can’t wait and risk the safety of the American people before we move forward,” he said.
Rosekind declined to say whether the airbags being installed in the recall cars are defect free. “But we know they are safer,” he said.

The issue has been known about for years. But, recalls were slow due to Takata’s insistence that the airbag problems were limited to cars in regions with very humid weather. The Japanese company sought to limit the scope of the recall to those areas.

NHTSA initially agreed to that limited recall, but in the wake of the General Motors GM -0.28% recalls involving ignition switches, it pushed Tataka and 11 separate automakers to expand the recall. NHTSA also has been fining Takata $14,000 a day, the maximum allowed by U.S. law, for failing to cooperate with its probe. So far, the fines total $1.2 million.
Sourse:www.forbes.com

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