The gigantic mess that is the Takata airbag recall has grown to become the biggest recall ever.
This week, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that the massive recall would become unprecedented in size, with another 35-40 million vehicles being added, with a rollout of the added vehicles going through the end of 2019.
The five phases of rollout are necessary because of the sheer number of inflators that must be replaced; among the considerations giving priority are the age of the inflators, exposure to high humidity and fluctuating high temperatures, as these can be factors in speeding up the degradation of Takata’s chemical propellant.
It’s when the inflators rupture that they become deadly, and so far in the US, these ruptures have been tied to 10 deaths and 100 injuries. So while NHTSA says that it’s a year ahead of initial projections, it now has a long way to go to hit its goal of 100% recall completion rate.
As you probably know, it’s Takata’s choice of ammonium nitrate propellant that started all of this.
The aforementioned climate factors contribute to this propellant’s degradation, so that when it’s called upon, it burns too hot and then causes the inflator to explode.
Then, horrifyingly, those inflator shards are sent into the occupant’s face.
The expanded recall does not include Takata bags that included a dessicant – it’s the non-dessicant inflators that need to be changed, and it’s not some of them – it’s ALL of them. Under this week’s decree, Takata must continue testing the inflators with dessicants and prove them to be safe, or all of those will be recalled as well.
This defect prompted the largest civil penalty ever imposed by NHTSA – it’s requiring a $70 million cash payment, with an additional $130 million due if Takata does not comply with a consent decree.
As you might imagine, Takata is suffering. According to CNN Money, Takata’s stock price is down almost 10% this week, and it’s down 80% over the past year, as the scandal has mounted. The inflators are a profit center in an airbag system, and the profound damage on Takata’s reputation means that bankruptcy is a possibility here.
In the meantime, check the list of affected vehicles, and be prepared to get yours fixed if it’s listed there.