Japan’s Takata Corp. and the US auto safety regulator NHTSA announced an expansion of a recall across the US, with 34 million vehicles pertaining to eleven automakers called back into services to have the airbags replaced.
The recall woes for the Japanese auto safety parts manufacturer and its company clients started back in 2008, but the crisis escalated since last year, after everyone was left bewildered at the fact that Takata’s defective airbag inflators root cause could not be found. Now, as the potentially fatal airbags need to be replaced on 34 million vehicles in the US alone (more than 50 million units worldwide), the US regulators are also left with a troubling question – are the new parts safer than the original ones? Mark Rosekind, director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is for the moment favoring the replacement parts, though he bluntly said the long-term safety of the replacement airbags is yet to be demonstrated. “Right now, we know that the ones that are going in are safer,” commented Rosekind.“The concern is, are they safe over the long term? That has yet to be determined. And just to be very direct, that does mean that some people might have to go back for a second if we find out that current remedies need to be enhanced.”
The current Takata recall is the biggest in the US and among the most complex the auto industry has ever seen – months of investigations made by the affected governments (mainly the US and Japan), by Takata and by the automakers implicated in parallel have yet to come up with an answer for the dire question – what is the root cause?