All About the Takata Air Bag Recall
In a recall that impacts ten different automakers, Japanese air bag manufacturer Takata Corp. recently announced the recall of 14 million vehicles around the world because of issues with the air bags in the driver and passenger side seats.
A report published by The New York Times suggests the manufacturer was aware of the risk the air bags posed as early as 2004, a decade before additional incidents caused the federal government to take notice.
The first reported incident involving one of the company’s air bags occurred in Alabama when an air bag ruptured and hurled metal shards at a driver. Instead of alerting the government about the potential danger, the company ordered its technicians to delete the data on the problem and discard prototypes the researchers had created to fix the problem.
Injuries by the Numbers
So far, four deaths and more than 100 injuries have been blamed on the air bags, which are said to deploy with too much force during an accident. The problem occurs when metals shards are ejected from the air bag causing serious injuries and lacerations to occupants of the vehicle.
Air bags have saved an estimated 37,000 lives between the years of 1987 and 2012, according to statistics from the Department of Transportation shared by Consumer Reports.
Likely Cause of the Malfunction
Drivers in humid states like those around the Gulf of Mexico have a higher chance of inclusion on the recall list because investigators believe that exposure to excess moisture is to blame for the excessive pressure and shattering of the air bag’s metal canister.
Vehicle owners living in states without high humidity might not see their car on the list of recalled vehicles, and manufacturer Takata Corp. actually refused a demand by the federal government to expand the recall nationwide.
Despite Takata’s refusal to expand the recall nationwide, some automakers have voluntarily increased the number of vehicles eligible for a replacement air bag. Honda and Mazda have each announced additions to the recall of millions of vehicles.
Honda said it would increase the number of recalled vehicles by 2.6 million, and Mazda announced it would expand its recall but has not given definitive numbers on how many vehicles the expansion would impact.
Timeline for the Recall
Because of the size and scope of the recall and limitations on manufacturing by Takata, estimates suggest the overall recall process could take years. Building additional factories would take several months and wouldn’t reduce the overall time required to complete manufacture of all the new air bags.
Because supplies of replacement air bags are limited, drivers in states with high, yearlong humidity will likely see recall notices first. Then, residents in states with lower humidity will become eligible for replacement.
How to Find Out if Your Car Needs Servicing
The federal government operates a website at safecar.gov that provides details on all active recalls in the United States. They offer a simple form where you can enter your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) for a list on open recalls. The list will show if your car is included in the Takata air bag recall.