US surveys Takata airbags in 200 models from 20 automakers | General
DETROIT (AP) – More than 30 million air bags in more than 200 models from 20 car and truck manufacturers are under investigation by a U.S. security agency because they have the potential to explode and launch shrapnel.
In a document released Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had initiated an investigation into airbag inflators manufactured from 2011 to 2019 by the now bankrupt Takata that had not been previously recalled.
The probe could override a decision made in May last year not to recall inflators, which contain a moisture-absorbing chemical called desiccant.
It is not known what prompted the agency to open the investigation. Last year, he decided not to recall the inflators, largely based on industry research, and said he would monitor them.
“While no current safety risks have been identified, more work is needed to assess the future risk of unreecalled desiccated inflators,” the agency said in the document.
The probe includes models manufactured by Honda, Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis), General Motors, Ford, Nissan, Tesla, BMW, Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover, Daimler Vans, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, McLaren, Porsche, Mazda, Karma, Fisker, Spartan Fire vehicles.
Some of the most popular vehicles in the United States are identified in the probe, including certain 2014-2015 Chevrolet Silverado pickups, certain 2011-2019 Jeep Grand Cherokees, and the 2012-2015 Honda CR-V.
The document released Tuesday says none of the inflators under investigation collapsed while in use. About 25 million vehicles are fitted with questionable driver or front passenger inflators that were installed at the factory. At least 5 million more had the inflators installed as spare parts for the more dangerous Takata inflators that have been recalled.
NHTSA did not immediately comment when asked what had changed, prompting it to open the investigation. The agency said in a statement Monday that drivers did not need to take any action. “NHTSA will conduct a full investigation and if we determine that there is a security flaw, we will act,” the agency said.
At least 19 people in the United States and 28 around the world were killed by detonating the Takata inflators. More than 400 people have been injured in the United States
The Japanese company used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate the air bags in an accident. But the chemical can become more volatile over time when exposed to moisture in the air and high temperatures. The explosion can shatter a metal cartridge and project shrapnel into the cabin.
The problem caused the largest spate of auto recalls in US history, with at least 67 million inflators recalled. About 17 million had not been repaired as of January. Worldwide, approximately 100 million inflators have been recalled.
Takata added the desiccant to absorb moisture and prevent ammonium nitrate from deteriorating. But in the document, NHTSA said that at some point the desiccants would become saturated. In the hottest and wettest places, saturation can occur in five years, the agency said.
Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit advocacy group, said he was not sure what caused the agency to change from last year. But he said NHTSA was opening the investigation before anything serious happened. “What’s refreshing here is that NHTSA is taking action that says we don’t have to wait for a body count. It’s awesome, ”Levine said.
Under President Donald Trump, the agency adopted few safety regulations and was less active in regulating the industry than under previous administrations. But Levine said he was much more active under President Joe Biden.
Levine said the agency should have started the investigation last year so owners of vehicles with questionable inflators could now know whether their airbag systems are safe or if they are faulty.
“This leaves consumers in a state of unnecessary concern,” Levine said.
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