Japan’s Takata Corp. is defying federal auto safety regulators who are demanding the supplier and automakers expand recalls of potentially deadly airbags over concerns the devices can explode with excessive force, blasting the driver and passengers with metal fragments.
Takata responded to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Tuesday, saying the agency lacks the authority to order recalls from manufacturers that supply automakers with original parts.
In November, NHTSA authorities contacted Takata and several automakers demanding a nationwide recall of vehicles fitted with the faulty airbags. The agency took the rare measure after evaluating a report of an exploding Takata airbag that lacerated the driver of a 2007 Ford Mustang in North Carolina.
Recalls of the Takata airbags have been limited to certain regions with humid climates such as Florida and Hawaii since it is believed that air moisture can corrupt the airbag’s inflation mechanism, making the bags deploy with deadly force, even in mild collisions when they shouldn’t deploy at all.
The faulty airbags have prompted recalls of 11 million vehicles worldwide, including some 8 million in the U.S. Expanding the U.S. recalls would add an estimated 8 million vehicles to the recall list.
“Takata is taking a defiant stance against the demand for a nationwide recall of their deadly airbags,” Jere Beasley, Principal & Founder of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles said. “They have caused hundreds of injuries and deaths and are refusing to make their mistakes right by recalling affected vehicles. The letter submitted to NHTSA and the subsequent testimony at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing is proof that Takata has no intention of taking responsibility for their mistakes and cover ups,” Mr. Beasley said.
“It is critically important to get vehicles with the defective airbags off the highways and the defective airbags replaced,” he added.
NHTSA called Takata’s reply “disappointing” and said it is reviewing the company’s response to determine its next course of action.
Takata’s refusal to initiate a more sweeping recall has left several automakers in a quandary, not knowing whether to wait for Takata to widen the recall, either willingly or by order, or launch more recalls themselves.