Takata heads back to the Hill over airbag recall

FBN's Rich Edson with the latest on the Takata airbag recall.

Honda Expands Takata Airbag Recall Nationwide

By Auto FOXBusiness

Honda (HMC) is expanding its regional recall for defective driver-side airbags made by Takata to a national campaign, a top Honda executive told lawmakers Wednesday.

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Takata, a Japanese supplier of auto safety parts, has come under fire for airbags that can explode and spray shrapnel-like material after inflating. Many of the top global automakers used the faulty airbags. Since 2008, more than 14 million vehicles have been recalled.

In the U.S., an estimated 7.8 million vehicles have Takata airbags that are at high risk of failing, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. U.S. car manufacturers have mostly limited recalls to areas with humid climates, citing research that suggests humidity causes the airbag inflators to rupture.

Last month, NHTSA requested that Takata and affected automakers expand recalls to repair all driver-side airbags with faulty inflators. Takata has said a recall of affected vehicles in all 50 states would roughly double the U.S. total to 16 million.

Rick Schostek, Executive Vice President of Honda North America, announced during a House subcommittee hearing that Honda decided to widen its recall to address all customer concerns over the defect. Honda is also in discussions with other airbag suppliers to ramp up production of replacement parts.

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Honda vehicles account for approximately 5.1 million of the cars included in NHTSA’s estimate.

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BMW and Toyota (TM) also have nationwide recalls for Takata airbags. Ford Motor Co. (F) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) have said they are evaluating NHTSA’s request.

But Takata sent NHTSA a letter Tuesday that pushes back against the regulator’s call for a national campaign. The company said current information “does not support a nationwide determination of a safety defect” and NHTSA doesn’t have the authority to tell manufacturers of original parts to conduct a recall.

Takata also said it will take action if additional testing reveals a safety issue beyond the scope of regional recalls.

“I was deeply disappointed by Takata’s response,” NHTSA acting Administrator David Friedman said in front of the House Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee.

NHTSA will pursue legal action to force Takata to widen its recall, Friedman added. If Takata issues a national recall, it would apply to all affected vehicles regardless of manufacturer.

Also on Tuesday, automakers including Honda and Toyota called for a coordinated effort across the industry to support independent testing of Takata airbag inflators. Schostek said manufacturers will achieve greater results by sharing information.

Lawmakers have urged for additional testing of passenger-side airbags as well. NHTSA said it didn’t include passenger-side airbags in its request for national recalls because those incidents remain concentrated in high humidity areas.

Unlike its peers, Toyota installed flawed Takata airbags on the passenger side. Abbas Saadat, Toyota’s North American regional product safety executive, said Toyota first launched a national recall campaign in April 2013.

Later Wednesday, Chrysler Group expanded plans to replace Takata passenger-side airbag inflators in 149,150 older-model pickup trucks. The recall for those vehicles now covers seven states and five U.S. territories.

“Chrysler continues to study this issue with great urgency.  At this time, data analysis indicates the front passenger-side inflators in the affected pickups represent the only additional risk outside the above-mentioned areas,” the company said in a statement.

The company also said it’s unaware of any accidents connected to the airbags used in 2003 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups.

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