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Takata airbag recall: U.S. regulator seeks ways to speed it up

The U.S. auto safety regulator is looking for ways to speed up the recall of Takata airbags in 33.8 million vehicles, fearing it could take two and a half years for all the cars to be repaired.

It could take 2 1/2 years for all 34 million bags to be replaced, NHTSA says

The Takata building is shown in Auburn Hills, Mich. It has stepped up airbag production to 500,000 a month and has plans to increase to one million, but the U.S. regulator says that may not be enough. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

The U.S. auto safety regulator is looking for ways to speed up the recall of Takata airbags in 33.8 million vehicles, fearing it could take two and a half years for all the cars to be repaired.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday it has sought legal input on how it can control production, delivery and installation of replacement airbags.

With 11 vehicle manufacturers affected and a limited supply of new, non-defective airbags, the U.S. regulator fears autos with defective airbags could remain on the road longer than necessary.

The Takata airbag inflator can rupture when the airbag is triggered in an accident, resulting in injury or death to vehicle occupants.  The problem was thought to be confined to places with high humidity, but now has been extended across the U.S.

"The number of impacted vehicles and manufacturers in combination with the supply issues related to these airbag recalls adds a previously unprecedented level of complexity to this recall," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

Complicating the issue is that Takata airbags that were put into cars in the past year as part of the recall plan are among those now determined to be defective.

In a regulatory document, the NHTSA said it is consulting with auto companies on several issues:

  • Whether it should order replacement airbags from manufacturers other than Takata.
  • How it should prioritize where the new parts should be sent first. 
  • Whether it should order another recall of cars that have already received replacements.

Takata says it has increased its production to 500,000 inflators per month and has plans to make up to one million monthly by September.

The NHSTA usually leaves it to auto manufacturers to co-ordinate recall programs. But it can step in to control the process if serious safety issues are going on too long.

Transport Canada has taken a hands-off approach to the Takata airbag recall, saying it doesn't know of any incidents involving airbags in Canada. It has directed consumers to vehicle manufacturer sites to seek out information on the recall.

The federal agency posted links to vehicle manufacturers' vehicle identification number look up tools at this site.

The limited supply of airbags and more active NHTSA role in the U.S. has the potential to slow opportunities for Canadian drivers to get their cars repaired.

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