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Car and Driver: What’s Wrong with the Latest Expansion to the Takata Airbag Recalls


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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Announces Another Takata Recall


The news that Takata will recall between 35 million and 40 million more airbag inflators has spread fast. Unfortunately, too many unsuspecting drivers may have to wait more than two years before they even know their airbags are defective.


The latest timetable from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandates that Takata announce the expansions in five separate recalls. The first, on May 16, includes 14 million inflators without specifying a specific list of cars. Mercedes-Benz has announced its own expansion, but other manufacturers, which will include previously unaffected cars like Jaguar Land Rover and Ferrari, have not. The next filing dates are all on the very last days of 2016, 2017, and 2018. Replacement parts that are deemed defective must be recalled by the last day of 2019. (See the NHTSA list here.)


But these dates are not when you should expect to receive a repair or even a notice in the mail. It’s when Takata has to file a defect report with NHTSA. At that point, Takata notifies the auto manufacturers, which then need time to sort through their records and issue their own defect reports. When that happens, the manufacturers have 60 days to notify owners, and that doesn’t even mean there will be parts available to begin repairs. The agency has already said the recalls would not be completed until 2019, but that was before the new expansions. The agency is also unsure if Takata’s replacement parts—many of which use the same ammonium-nitrate compound that is causing the ruptures—will need to be replaced a second time.


NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind (pictured above) says the agency has timed the recall schedule so that the airbag inflators likeliest to fail first will be repaired first. To do that, NHTSA has separated the country into three humidity zones and is prioritizing repairs to vehicles registered in states with the highest humidity. NHTSA has a table on its website naming the states and the model years in question for each recall filing date.


What’s most troubling here is that until those deadlines, owners won’t know whether a previously non-recalled car’s airbags are defective. And how can an agency that fines companies for taking years to report defects allow Takata to take its sweet time with this? We’re not even close to writing the end of this story.


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