Takata Exec Says a Nationwide Air Bag Recall Is Unnecessary

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A Takata executive said the demand by U.S. regulators for a nationwide recall of Takata driver’s side air bags is not needed.

According to ABC, Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata’s senior vice president of global quality assurance, testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday. Shimizu said the recalls should continue to focus on high-humidity regions. “Our best information supports the view that these regions must be the priority for the replacement of air bags,” Shimizu said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said an air bag failure that occurred in a low-humidity location prompted it to ask for the expanded recall. The affected air bags contain a propellant that can cause them to explode when deployed, shooting metal shrapnel. Five deaths are linked to the defective air bags.

It’s believed that moisture makes the air bag propellant more combustible, so the initial recalls were targeted at hot, high-humidity regions, including Florida, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We first told you about the air bag recalls here.

According to ABC, NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman called Takata’s refusal to embrace a nationwide recall frustrating and unacceptable.

Though the NHTSA can’t order a recall, The Wall Street Journal said it can fine companies for failing to respond to safety problems. The Journal reported:

“We are following the data where it takes us,” Mr. Friedman said. “If Takata and the automakers fail to expand the recall we will make them do so. We have the ability to fine them and take whatever other action at our disposal under the law.”

According to The New York Times, the NHTSA hasn’t released a specific list of the makes, models and years of vehicles that would be impacted by an expanded recall. “But the expansions will affect millions of vehicles made by Ford, Honda, Chrysler, Mazda and BMW, mostly from model years 2008 or earlier,” the Times said.

The NHTSA’s call for an expanded recall does not cover passenger’s side air bags.

“When asked why they were not included, Mr. Friedman said that they were different in design from those on the driver’s side, and that tests so far did not suggest a need to include them,” the Times said.

Former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook told NPR that the initial recall focus was far too narrow.

“The whole concept of … regional recalls based on high humidity affecting the air bag inflator was ridiculous,” she said. “Because cars travel all over the United States, and you can’t isolate them that way.”

Click here for more information from the NHTSA on the air bag recalls.

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