During Tuesday’s hearing in front of a Congressional subcommittee, an executive of Japan’s Takata Corp. said the company is going to “rapidly” lower the production output of a chemical that is considered too volatile when used in its recalled airbag inflators.
The chemical, called ammonium nitrate, is used as the propellant for the rapid deployment of the airbag in case of an accident, but has now been linked to the global recall of more than 53 million autos with defective airbag inflators, with almost 34 million vehicles being in the US alone. According to Kevin Kennedy, executive vice president of Takata subsidiary TK Holdings, ammonium nitrate “appears to be one of the factors” that contribute to the untimely ruptures of inflators that can explode with too much force and send metal debris inside the cabin at high velocity. The flaw has been so far linked to at least six deaths around the world and more than one hundred injuries.
Takata now has “alternate propellants with guanidine nitrate. We started production a year or two ago, and we’re continuing to ramp those up. I think overall you will see our production of ammonium nitrate go down rapidly,” commented Kennedy in front of a House subcommittee. The Japanese auto safety parts supplier has been the only key airbag manufacturer that used the chemical for its propellant, with the executive adding they would continue to use it, albeit in a newer formula that would be safer from moisture. Kennedy added the older inflator using the traditional version of the compound has been used for the replacement parts of the recalled vehicles – which may have to be called back for a second round of modifications.