Takata Recalls Millions More Airbags

CBJ — Takata will recall another 35 million to 40 million airbag inflators, a stunning increase that will more than double what already is the largest automotive recall in American history, the federal government announced Wednesday.

The recall expansion would bring to as many as 69 million the total number of inflators to be replaced, a gargantuan task that the government predicts will take until the end of 2019 to complete.

The car and truck models included in the expanded recall and the total number of vehicles were not immediately released but will be posted on NHTSA’s website in the coming weeks. Most of the expansion is for front passenger airbags that were not part of previous recalls, said Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Twelve vehicle manufacturers were already involved in the recall, plus two more added in January, Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz. The expansion includes three additional manufacturers, Tesla, Jaguar-Land Rover and Fisker.

Takata airbag inflators can explode with too much force and injure people. So far, at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries have been reported worldwide.

Replacing so many inflators will be a daunting task because automakers involved in the current recall of 28.8 million inflators have only been able to fix 28% of the cars involved after more than two years. Airbag manufacturers have had trouble making enough replacement inflators, and automakers have had difficulty finding owners and persuading them to get cars repaired.

Under an order issued last year, the U.S. government has wide authority over Takata to prompt additional recalls.

The expansion will be phased in between this month and December 2019, with older cars and those in areas of high heat and humidity getting priority.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create an explosion that inflates airbags in a crash. But the chemical can degrade over time when exposed to heat and humidity and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister and spewing shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

The additional recalls come as authorities in Malaysia investigate two more recent deaths in cars with Takata airbags that ruptured. Honda says the inflators spewed metal fragments in the crashes, but the cause of the deaths has not been determined.

The crashes occurred in April and May. If they were caused by Takata inflators, they would be the 12th and 13th deaths worldwide.