The massive recall for faulty airbags made by Japanese automotive supplier Takata could get a lot bigger.
In total, 29 million airbag inflators have been recalled so far, but an additional 70 to 90 million are now being examined by U.S. safety regulators and could be recalled. The issue is the ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical that is used inside the inflator as a propellant. Over time, the propellant can become unstable, causing the inflator to explode with too much force, hurling metal shards at the occupants in the vehicle.
A total of 120 million Takata inflators in the U.S. use ammonium nitrate, though the exact amount of vehicles that will be affected by the recall is unclear as some cars use more than one inflator. In the previous recalls, 24 million defective Takata inflators were found to be used in 19 million vehicles in the U.S.
Takata agreed to pay a $70 million penalty to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the inflators and also committed to stop using ammonium nitrate by 2018. The agreement also states that all remaining ammonium nitrate inflators will be declared defective by 2019 unless the company can prove otherwise.
Takata supplied inflators to over a dozen automakers, with Honda being its biggest customer. Besides the volatile chemicals, Takata says that “manufacturing variability” may have contributed to the issues, listing things such as metal shavings inside some of the inflators part, improperly welded casings and bent or damaged parts.
Not surprisingly, Takata is having trouble keeping up with demand for replacement inflators, and one supplier, Autoliv, has already been enlisted to help make replacements for the affected cars. Cars located in hot and humid parts of the country have been getting priority in these recalls, as the chemicals become unstable when contaminated with moisture.
[Source: Automotive News]