The US auto safety regulator NHTSA, currently overseeing the safety campaigns involving Japan’s Takata Corp. designed airbags, is now mulling an order to expand the recalls and has already moved to warn seven automakers about the approaching process.
Takata identified the seven manufacturers, including Tesla Motors and VW AG, as clients that received airbag inflators using ammonium nitrate as a propellant, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Japanese auto safety supplier has now moved to consider the chemical propellant as one of the many contributing factors to the string of airbag ruptures. Since 2008 the supplier and eleven automotive partners have been recalling millions of vehicles around the world to replace airbags that can unexpectedly rupture during deployment, exploding with too much force and sending metal and other debris flying inside the cabin at high velocity. The issue has been linked so far to eight deaths and 130 injuries.
Takata told NHTSA in July it still delivered airbags using ammonium nitrate to Volkswagen and Tesla, as well as Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, Suzuki Volvo Trucks and Spartan Motors. The regulatory agency contacted all of them to see if they will embark in a safety campaign and what issues they would have if the watchdog ordered an expanded recall. NHTSA has also backed the Takata findings as for the root cause of the defect: age, exposure to high humidity and moisture affecting the chemical makeup of the ammonium nitrate inflator propellant, according to recent reports. The NHTSA will hold a public hearing later on this fall to present its findings and how it would proceed in the near future.