Investigators found multiple causes of Takata’s airbags failures image

A group of 10 automakers said the cause behind Takata airbag ruptures is a combination of three factors, with the volatile chemical ammonium nitrate being the main one.

A consortium of 10 automakers, known as the Independent Testing Coalition and led by David Kelly – who previously was the head of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – have decided to further investigate the causes behind Takata’s explosive airbags ruptures. According to their findings, the use of ammonium nitrate was the key factor of the failures, but it was not the only one responsible for 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries. The Group said the inflator assembly did not properly protect the chemical substance from moisture in humid environments. Therefore, exposure to humidity coupled with variations in temperatures over time could lead to an instant combustion of the propellant, causing the inflators to rupture with force when they deployed. “You can’t have the energetic disassembly without all three factors,” Kelly told Automotive News. “You have to have all three.”

He said the ITC investigated the four designs of Takata inflators used in some 19 million US vehicles that Takata admitted were defective last year, but the group did not test the type of inflators covered by the supplier recall expansions that began last month and boosted the total number of the affected cars to 29 million. Furthermore, this figure could be only a small part of the whole safety picture, as many as 120 million Takata airbags in US vehicles make use of ammonium nitrate, according to company documents reviewed by Reuters and verified by two former Takata managers. Thus, the US safety regulators are now examining whether an additional 70 million to 90 million airbags may endanger drivers, a person with inside information said.

Via Automotive News