VW asserted in the letter, which NHTSA posted online (as a PDF) with other documents about the company's safety campaign, that the vast majority of the automaker's recalled vehicles used Takata inflators from the supplier's factory in Freiburg, Germany. Only the US-built Passat had components from Takata's plant in Mexico.
VW's argues to NHTSA that its recall is unnecessary because there are no reported airbag ruptures in the German-made parts, and the plant has better quality control than Takata's factories in the US and Mexico. In addition, the Mexico-manufactured components in the Passat are also allegedly safe because they come from a time after significant upgrades to the plant to address humidity and welding concerns. "We do not believe the facts known to date support the scope as defined in the Takata defect notification," VW's letter says.
To be clear, VW is not refusing the Takata recall and plans to fix the affected vehicles. Instead, this letter shows the automaker expressing an opinion that NHTSA's scope for the campaign is too broad. VW now plans to do its own analysis on the inflators to strengthen that case, according to The Detroit News. "We respectfully request that, should such results be shown, the agency work with Volkswagen and other manufacturers to revisit the scope of these recalls," the letter said.
Takata's recalled inflators use ammonium nitrate as a propellant, and experts believe that long-term exposure to high humidity can make the chemical more likely to cause a rupture during airbag deployment. The spray of metal shrapnel from the exploding parts has links to at least 10 deaths.