Takata Briefing Keeps the Public Informed
Americans have been justifiably concerned since news spread of serious safety risks involving air bags made by Takata. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) takes these concerns seriously and has worked to get answers as to the cause of the ruptures, to get these air bags repaired, and to keep the public informed.
That work continued today with a public information meeting led by experts from NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Division, who outlined the risk from Takata air bags, actions taken by the Agency to address this risk, and our next steps to address this serious public safety challenge.
Our briefing began with the science behind air bags, which is actually rocket science. A NHTSA air bag expert, Stephen Ridella, explained how air bags should work and how the inflators inside the recalled Takata air bags are malfunctioning. While NHTSA and others continue to investigate the reason for this malfunction, the best and most current information points to a problem with the way the specific type of propellant –phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate– used in these Takata air bags changes as it gets older and how it burns differently because of those changes.
Acting Associate Administrator for Enforcement Frank Borris followed up with a history of NHTSA’s investigation into the rupturing Takata inflators. In short, from the time the first Takata air bag ruptures were identified in February 2007, Takata has claimed that the issue was caused by manufacturing problems and limited to air bags manufactured over specific periods of time. We now know, after a series of tragic incidents involving these air bags, and after months of investigation, that the problem affects a far larger number of vehicles than once thought, and that the issue is not due to an isolated error at a manufacturing plant.
NHTSA has determined that the Takata air bag issue affects 12 vehicle manufacturers and approximately 19 million cars, vans, and trucks that need to have 23 million air bag inflators replaced (includes driver and passenger side). As of October 15, NHTSA is aware of 86 driver and 30 passenger inflator rupture incidents with 94 alleged injuries as a result of a rupturing Takata inflator, including cuts or lacerations to the face or neck, broken or fractured facial bones, loss of eyesight, broken teeth, and traumatic brain injury. The agency is also aware of seven deaths in the United States –and one more overseas– that have been attributed to a known driver inflator rupture.
A recall this size, involving this many manufacturers, is unprecedented. That's why NHTSA launched the coordinated remedy proceeding to determine whether the agency can use its authority to accelerate this effort, and if so, how best to do that.
NHTSA's goal is protecting Americans from a dangerous and deadly defect by having safe air bags in all cars as quickly as possible. And in pursuit of that goal, we have held dozens of meetings with individual manufacturers, gathered massive amounts of data from the affected companies, and made careful study of the legal authority Congress has given us to inform the steps that we might take.
With all of this in mind, NHTSA is evaluating a series of approaches to remedy the problem. Following today’s meeting, NHTSA staff are discussing the options outlined today so that I can decide the best course of action. That decision will be made by Thanksgiving.
And as these efforts progress, we’ll continue to keep the public informed.
If you’re concerned that your vehicle might be affected by the Takata recall, please use NHTSA’s VIN lookup tool. Just go to www.safercar.gov, click on the VIN lookup button, and enter your Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN. This helpful video explains VINs and how to use the VIN lookup tool.
And if your vehicle is under a recall, please call your local dealer to arrange for free repairs. Please also watch for an official recall notice, bearing the logos of the Department of Transportation and NHTSA, and follow its instructions.