This Tuesday a US House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing grilled officials of Japan’s Takata Corp and the US auto safety regulator NHTSA for answers about the largest single-product recall in US history.
The Japanese auto safety parts manufacturer has been recalling since 2008, alongside eleven automotive partners, vehicles because they are in danger of having their airbag inflators explode with too much force, sending metal shards and other debris inside the cabin at high velocity. More than 53 million autos have been recalled worldwide and almost 34 million are in the US alone – making it the single-largest product recall in US history. The main problem behind the flaw that has injured more than 100 people and killed six others is that Takata, the automakers and the safety regulators are unable to find the root cause of the defect. “There may not be a single root cause, and we may in fact never know the root cause,” commented Mark Rosekind, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “That is why NHTSA is taking aggressive action to keep people safe on the road now, rather than waiting, perhaps indefinitely.”
The head of the US auto safety regulator added that its monitoring process in Takata’s case and others has been impaired by the lack of financial and personnel resources – for example just eight persons are being tasked to sift through around 80,000 consumer complaints each year to find about potential safety threats. Even the Takata task force has only eight people. Representatives of the subcommittee then asked Rosekind to discuss the agency’s budget after the hearing.