A subcommittee of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee has decided to hold a public hearing on June 2 on the problems faced by Japan’s Takata and its eleven auto manufacturing clients.
The automakers, Takata itself and regulators around the world have been investigating for months the issue of airbags that have defective inflators, which could explode with too much force and send metal shards and other debris flying inside the cabin at high velocity. The recalls started back in 2008, but expanded widely last year and recently, with Takata calling back almost 34 million vehicles in the US alone – the largest single-product recall in the country’s history. According to industry officials that have knowledge of the process, even the replacement inflators can’t guarantee total safety, since the root cause of the defective ones is yet unknown. Linked to at least six fatalities and more than 100 injuries, Takata, regulators and the eleven automakers involved are entrenched in separate, parallel probes to determine the cause of the defect.
Now, according to certain industry officials that have knowledge of the matter, the replacement inflators used for the 34 million vehicles recall might eventually need to be replaced as well if the investigations find the real problem was not addressed until the replacements started to be shipped. “If you don’t find out the root cause, who knows? We may have this same discussion again in four, five, six, seven, 10 years,” said David Kelly, a former acting NHTSA administrator that today directs the efforts of a consortium of ten carmakers.