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Round Two: 400,000 Fixed Takata Air Bags Need Another Recall

Photo of the inside of a car's front seat after a car crash. Deployed airbag and broken windshield.

As if millions of inflators for defective Takata air bags needing replacement wasn’t bad enough, 400,000 will need to be replaced again. Word came down recently from sources at the Japanese safety equipment maker that, while 500,000 of the parts appear to be safe, according to U.S. safety regulators, 400,000 of those repaired are headed for a second round of recalls in certain U.S. vehicles. Meanwhile, motorists continue to be injured and auto insurance companies are still paying out claims for those and newer injuries.

At last count, the safety of more than 3 million replacement parts remained in question.

As a result of this uncertainty, an official at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Reuters that it was up to Takata Corp and the carmakers to demonstrate that the remedy parts are safe for the life of the vehicle. Up until now, they have failed to do so, given the recalling of the 400,000 previously repaired vehicles. According to the NHTSA, a priority now exists to determine which of the replacement parts “are suspect and need to be replaced” again.

The reason for the second recall is that the replacement driver-side inflators of the estimated 400,000 vehicles use a potentially defective propellant wafer that is shaped like a batwing. Both the Takata and NHTSA sources confirmed the urgency of replacing the item

But, the overall numbers are staggering. For example – although Takata and its contract suppliers have been gradually ramping up shipments of replacement parts to manufacturers whose vehicles are affected by faulty equipment, there are nearly 34 million potentially defective and dangerous Takata air bags on the roads. Those air bags have inflators that could rupture, spraying metal fragments inside cars, and have been linked to at least six deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Before a House subcommittee hearing, a Takata executive told a panel that the company was phasing out the batwing propellant wafers and was “rapidly” reducing production of ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical that has been linked to inflator ruptures. It was also reported that, so far this year, approximately 500,000 replacement parts were made for the Japanese company by outside suppliers, including TRW Automotive Inc. and Autoliv Inc. The replacement parts from TRW and Autoliv use a different chemical from the Takata-made inflators and are deemed safe.

The NHTSA expressed confidence with the products from those other suppliers, saying they had no reason to suspect any problems. And, Takata expects to provide at least 1 million inflators per month, by the end of the year, of which about 700,000 will be made by TRW, Autoliv and others.

Rather than wait, Honda Motor Co, one of Takata’s largest air bag customers, announced an expanded recall covering more than 5 million of their vehicles. In the official recall notice posted by the U.S. safety regulator, Honda said that an unspecified number of owners who had replacement parts installed since September 12, 2014, “received an inflator of a different design, and therefore are not included in this recall.”

This, of course, is good news for those vehicle owners. However, with the extent of the recall due to the defective and potentially harmful air bags, drivers have to use caution in the event of an accident and the deployment of the Takata equipment.

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If you’re one of the 400,000 repeat recalls, do you plan on going through the process again? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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