The justification behind limiting the Takata airbag recall only to certain high humidity areas in the US always seemed somewhat dubious. The US Department of Transportation apparently agrees because in a detailed statement posted on the website for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the feds are requesting nationwide action. At the same time, the government's investigation into Takata and the affected automakers is deepening.

Based on a recent failure outside of the regional recall area, NHTSA and the DOT now believe a national recall of Takata's driver's side frontal airbags is necessary. The regulators are already in contact with the supplier and automakers to push for those expanded campaigns. "Unless Takata and the manufacturers quickly agree to this recall, NHTSA will use the full extent of its statutory powers to ensure vehicles that use the same or similar air bag inflator are recalled," it says in the statement.

Furthermore, NHTSA is expanding its analysis into what causes these inflators to explode. All 10 affected automakers (BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota) must file detailed reports under oath to the agency about "completed, ongoing or planned testing" of the parts. The regulator is also requesting even more information from Takata about changes to the chemical makeup of its inflators. Responses to all of these inquiries are due December 5.

"By demanding this national recall, NHTSA has demonstrated once again that it will follow data and evidence to protect the lives of Americans on the road and to hold manufacturers accountable," said Secretary Anthony Foxx in the statement.

This new request is just the latest step in an ongoing process. Takata must submit other documents to NHTSA by December 1 as part of an earlier investigation, and the company faces a Senate hearing on November 20 into the problem. The supplier and Honda are also named in a lawsuit in Florida from the family of a woman who allegedly died due to the faulty part.

By NHTSA's estimation about 7.8 million vehicles are potentially in need of repair under the recall. So far, five deaths worldwide have possible links to the rupturing inflators with four of those in the US. However, just one of these reportedly occurred inside of the regional recall zone. At least 139 injuries have been allegedly related to the problem. Scroll down to read NHTSA's full statement.
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USDOT Calls for National Recall of Defective Takata Driver Side Air Bags
NHTSA 45-14
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NHTSA Demands New, Additional Details on Air Bags from Takata and 10 Auto Manufacturers as Part of Ongoing Investigation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced it is calling for a national recall of vehicles with certain driver's side frontal air bags made by Takata. This decision is based on the agency's evaluation of a recent driver's side air bag failure in a vehicle outside the current regional recall area and its relationship to five previous driver's side air bag ruptures, all of which are covered by existing regional recalls.

"By demanding this national recall, NHTSA has demonstrated once again that it will follow data and evidence to protect the lives of Americans on the road and to hold manufacturers accountable," said Secretary Anthony Foxx.

NHTSA contacted Takata and the vehicle manufacturers this week to call for the national recall of these vehicles after evaluating a recent incident that involved a failure in a driver's side air bag inflator outside an area of high absolute humidity. Based on this new information, unless Takata and the manufacturers quickly agree to this recall, NHTSA will use the full extent of its statutory powers to ensure vehicles that use the same or similar air bag inflator are recalled.

As part of these efforts and its ongoing investigation into both the defect and the scope of the recalls, the agency also issued a General Order to Takata and all ten of the vehicle manufacturers that use Takata air bag inflators – BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota – requiring each manufacturer to file, under oath, a detailed report and produce all related documents about completed, ongoing or planned testing of Takata inflators outside the current regional recall areas. The agency is demanding this information to compel Takata and the affected industry to be frank with not only NHTSA, but the American public, as to what testing and additional steps they have done and plan to do to control and mitigate the risk associated with Takata's defective inflators.

Additionally, NHTSA issued a Special Order to Takata, the second the agency has issued to the manufacturer regarding this defect, compelling it to provide, under oath, documents and detailed information on the propellant used in Takata's inflators. In recent days, Takata has publicly conceded that it changed the chemical mix of its air bag inflator propellant in newly designed inflators. As part of its ongoing investigation, the agency will analyze the information received to determine if the chemical composition of Takata's propellant mix may be a cause and/or contributing factor in the air bag inflator ruptures.

"We now know that millions of vehicles must be recalled to address defective Takata air bags and our aggressive investigation is far from over," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman. "We're pushing Takata and all affected manufacturers to issue the recall and to ensure the recalls capture the full scope of the problems."

In addition to the General Order and Special Order, NHTSA is issuing a Recall Acknowledgement Letter, a routine response to all Safety Recall Reports filed with the agency. The letter summarizes the details of the most recent report submitted by Takata regarding its defective passenger side air bag inflators and identifies the information gaps the agency is insisting Takata clarify to ensure it provides the full information required by law.

While NHTSA is not aware of either field incidents or test data suggesting that the problem affecting passenger-side air bags in the areas of persistently high humidity extends beyond those areas, the agency has been pushing the industry to perform testing to ensure that current recalls effectively cover vehicles with air bags that could be potentially affected by this defect.

The information the agency receives from Takata and the auto manufacturers will provide further information and details needed to continue its investigation into this complex issue. Responses to the General Order and Special Order are due to NHTSA by December 5.


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