The US auto safety regulator has recently announced it could make use of procedures that were never exercised to hasten the replacement process of the flawed Takata-produced airbags.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now mulling unprecedented measures to speed up the recall and repairs of the potentially fatal Takata Corp airbag issue that has affected ten automakers and millions of cars. There are still many cars remaining on US roads, even as the carmakers have initiated massive safety campaigns. According to a letter dated March 3, NHTSA’s chief Mark Rosekind told Senator Bill Nelson the regulator also has the authority to lift the supply of necessary replacement parts by ordering other auto parts manufacturers to produce them. This would be the first time the NHTSA exercises this right under the National Traffic and Motor Safety Act – after first being granted with it back in 2000. “With such a large number of affected vehicles, production of replacement air bags must be increased but without compromising safety,” commented Rosekind in the letter. “We will consider all options available to us, including whether to invoke the Safety Act.”
Rosekind, which has previous experience with the National Transportation Safety Board, an agency that probes major accidents, took over the auto safety regulator back in December – with the NHTSA enduring heavy criticism for not swiftly responding to last year’s major recall crises – the GM ignition switch debacle and Japan’s Takata Corp. airbag inflator issue.
According to NHTSA estimates, at least 17 million vehicles were equipped with Takata airbag inflators that can explode during deployment with too much force, sending metal debris and other shards inside the cabin at high velocity. So far, the flaw ahs been linked to six deaths and more than a dozen injuries.