Democracy Dies in Darkness

Cars

18th Takata death likely in Australia; Ford asks not to recall 2.5 million airbags deemed unsafe

July 25, 2017 at 3:20 PM

Another death may be linked to Takata's fatally flawed airbags. An Australian motorist was killed after being hit in the neck by shrapnel from the airbag of his 2007 Honda CR-V.

Honda has confirmed that the vehicle in question was part of the massive Takata recall. That recall currently affects more than 100 million airbag inflators worldwide, including 46.2 million in the U.S. Only 35 percent of American vehicles affected by the recall have been repaired so far. 

If the death in Australia is conclusively linked to the CR-V's Takata airbag, it would be the 18th fatality caused by the devices. The problem with Takata's airbags is rooted in their inflators, many of which use ammonium nitrate to deploy the bags. Unfortunately, ammonium nitrate is easily destabilized, especially when exposed to high levels of moisture and heat. That, in turn, causes the compound to explode with excessive force. 

Not a good time for Takata

The news comes during a run of damaging headlines for Takata. Within the past few weeks, we've learned that Takata's airbags killed yet another U.S. resident. (That incident occurred in a Honda, too, though that isn't especially unusual because Honda used to be Takata's biggest client.)

Just hours after that news broke, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that 2.8 million Ford, Mazda, and Nissan vehicles would be added to the Takata recall. Although the inflators on those vehicles include a dessicant to prevent the ammonium nitrate from destabilizing, NHTSA's tests found that they devices were significantly more likely to malfunction than inflators that didn't use ammonium nitrate at all.

Ford files a petition

The majority of vehicles included in NHTSA's recall expansion are Fords. Now, Ford is pushing back against the federal regulatory agency, asking for permission to continue testing the airbags in those models. In its petition to NHTSA, Ford says that the discrepancies with the desiccated ammonium nitrate inflators are inconsequential.

The expansion of the Takata recall was initially believed to affect 2.2 million Ford vehicles. However, it now appears that the number is close to 2.5 million.

If NHTSA declines Ford's request, the recall will affect the following makes and models:

Mazda says that it will also appeal its much smaller recall of some 6,000 B-series pickups from model-years 2007, 2008, and 2009. Those vehicles were build in partnership with Ford. 

However, Nissan has confirmed that it will recall 627,000 Versa vehicles from 2007-2012--most of which are registered in the U.S.--out of an abundance of caution.

NHTSA has said that, although there have been no deaths, injuries, or explosions involving the airbags in the 2.8 million vehicles recalled this month, agency tests show that the ammonium nitrate in the inflators do, in fact, degrade over time. NHTSA engineers believe that the airbags will begin to malfunction in the future if not replaced soon.

Want to know whether your vehicle is affected by the Takata recall? Check out this section of NHTSA's website, which is devoted entirely to the largest recall in automotive history.

(c) 2017, High Gear Media.

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