Japan’s Takata Corp, the auto safety supplier at the center of a worldwide safety crisis, has announced it was going to change the design of driver-side airbag inflators, while continuing to use ammonium nitrate as the propellant.
The Japanese auto safety parts manufacturer has been entrenched in a global safety crisis that started back in 2008 and escalated since last year, with its flawed airbag inflators exploding with too much force and sending metal debris and shrapnel inside the cabin at high velocity. The worldwide recalls have totaled so far more than 53 million autos, with almost 34 million in the US alone. Today the company is scheduled to have officials appearing in front of a US congressional hearing, and the written testimony prepared in advance has Takata executive Kevin Kennedy explaining that other firms that are now shouldering the recalls by delivering replacement kits for the potentially defective Takata parts would not use ammonium nitrate. The executive pointed out that Takata is collaborating with carmakers “to transition to newer versions of driver inflators in our replacement kits or inflators made by other suppliers that do not contain ammonium nitrate.”
Also, a company spokesperson added that Takata would continue to use ammonium nitrate for the replacement inflators, “which is safe and effective for use in air bag inflators when properly engineered and manufactured.” US government officials, some of the plaintiffs’ attorneys and former Takata employees have been questioning the safety and volatility of the chemical propellant. Takata is currently the only major safety parts supplier using it for the inflators – with the flawed parts so far linked to six deaths and more than one hundred injuries in vehicles produced after 2003.