Flying Shrapnel In Your Car? Who Woulda Thought?
Honda, Nissan, and Mazda recall vehicles for potential Takata malfunctioning air bags that could explode and shoot shrapnel inside cars. Almost 3 million cars with potentially explosive air bags supplied by Takata Corporation brings the recall total to a shocking 10.5 million vehicles called back over the past five years. This total places it among the five biggest auto parts recalls in history.
The recalls are a continuation of the April 2013 recalls. Honda is expanding a recall from April 2013 for an additional 2.03 million vehicles worldwide because of Takata air bag inflators made in 2000-02 that could explode and shoot shrapnel at drivers and passengers.
Nissan Motor Co will recall 755,000 vehicles worldwide, while Mazda Motor Corp said it will call back 159,807 vehicles, both also expanding on the April 2013 recall. The 2013 recalls were intended to close the book on a problem that emerged as early as 2007 and has been linked to two deaths.
A Takata spokeswoman said it was unclear what the financial impact of the recalls would be, but last year’s recalls cost the supplier $300 million.
Humidity Could Be a Factor
But that’s not all. The air bag defect seems particularly unsafe in high humidity regions in the United States, including Florida. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “At the request of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Honda and six other automakers will recall more vehicles and replace Takata air bag inflators in some. Separately, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Ford, Chrysler and BMW said they are conducting regional recalls in the United States to replace Takata air bag inflators in certain vehicles in high humidity regions of Puerto Rico, Florida, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands. Most of the companies said NHTSA had determined the regions affected, when asked why other humid areas were not covered.” Still, Honda decided to recall vehicles in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.
What’s Being Done?
Huffington Post interviewed Takata Chief Executive Officer Shigehisa Takada and Chief Operating Officer Stefan Stocker and they had this to say, “We will aim to further strengthen our quality control system and work united as a company to prevent problems from happening again.”
“Based on the limited data available at this time, NHTSA supports efforts by automakers to address the immediate risk in areas that have consistently hot, humid conditions over extended periods of time,” NHTSA said in a statement. They also said the recalls were prompted after an investigation into six reports of air bag ruptures in Florida and Puerto Rico. They will continue to gather more data and base action according to their findings.
In the United States, NHTSA opened a probe earlier this month on whether Takata inflators made after 2002 are prone to fail, and whether driving in high humidity contributes to the risk of air bag explosions
Short of Takata replacement parts, the automakers said they would turn off air bags in Japan as customers bring recalled vehicles into dealerships – judging that an inoperable passenger side air bag is safer than a potentially defective one. It’s kind of like taking the battery out of a malfunctioning smoke detector, don’t you think?