Recalled Airbags Continue to Impact More Vehicles, Congressional Hearing Called

Congressional lawmakers are planning to call Takata executives before them to answer questions about millions of recalled airbags that may explode and injure occupants, as questions continue to be raised over the safety of the replacements being installed in repaired vehicles.

The hearing comes as auto manufacturers add add hundreds of thousands more vehicles to the 34 million already recalled due to airbag problems linked to faulty Takata inflators, which may cause the airbags to over-inflate and rupture, sending metal debris flying into the passenger cabin.

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade plans to hold a hearing tomorrow to update lawmakers on the recalled airbags and the risk of explosions, according to a hearing notice (PDF) issued on May 26. The hearing is scheduled to include witness testimony from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Mark Rosekind and Takata Executive Vice President Kevin Kennedy, among others.

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Takata Airbag Lawsuits

Millions of Vehicles Were Recalled in 2014 Due to Exploding Airbags That Caused Injuries and Deaths.

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In a memo summarizing events (PDF) surrounding the airbags over the past several years, the lawmakers say they will ask witnesses whether resources committed to the recall by Takata and the NHTSA are sufficient and if timely decisions are being made to protect consumers. They will also ask about the most recent information obtained regarding Takata airbag inflator problems and how they led to the large expansion of the Takata airbag recalls in going months, as well as coordination between NHTSA and auto manufacturers and how long it will take all affected vehicles to be repaired.

At issue are recalled airbags that have inflators manufactured by Takata, which were used by most major auto makers.

In many cases involving expoding airbags manufactured by Takata, the injuries were so severe that emergency workers who have mistaken the wounds for shotgun blasts and stabbing attacks. At least six deaths have been linked to the airbags worldwide, with five in the U.S. Honda has been hardest hit, with all of the deaths occurring in its cars. The company has also had the most vehicles recalled.

About 34 million vehicles in total have been recalled due to Takata airbag ruptures in recent years. Even as the hearing was announced, more auto manufacturers announced additional airbag recalls.

Ford Motor Company announced last week that it is recalling 361,523 Model year 2004-2006 Ford Ranger pickup trucks that have passenger-side Takata airbags installed. The company reports that it has recalled a total of 1,509,535 vehicles in total due to Takata airbag inflator concerns.

Similarly, General Motors announced it is recalling 330,196 fullsize pickup trucks, including model year 2007 and 2008 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra vehicles that also have passenger-side Takata airbags.

The two latest airbag recall expansions came on the heels of an announcement by NHTSA that it has entered into a consent order with Takata that effectively doubled the number of vehicles recalled due to airbag concerns to 33.8 million. The consent order requires the company to cooperate with the agency in all future actions involving the airbag recall campaign. In addition, the NHTSA says it is attempting to take over legal oversight of the recall in order to organize and prioritize the replacements.

The slow pace of the airbag repairs has had some officials concerned, warning that it could take years for Takata to manufacture enough replacement parts. However, there is also growing concern that the replacements being installed in recalled vehicles may have the same problems.

Investigations into why the airbags are rupturing are still under investigation at Takata, the NHTSA and a number of automakers. Possible causes include the manufacturing and shape of the inflators, the adhesives used to keep them together and the ammonia nitrate gas used by Takata to rapidly inflate its airbags.

The company is still using ammonia nitrate, but claims that the replacement airbags are safer. However, some wonder how anyone could make that claim when the actual cause of the airbag ruptures is still unknown.

Takata Airbag Inflator Lawsuits

A growing number of product liability lawsuits over the recalled airbags are being filed nationwide, all involving similar allegations that design defects caused the airbags to overinflate and explode, severely injuring vehicle occupants.

On February 5, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered all Takata airbag lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide to be consolidated under one judge for pretrial proceedings as part of a Takata airbag MDL. Complaints filed throughout the federal court system will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in the Southern District of Florida to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.


  • AdamJune 5, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Has anyone had an issue where the airbags neglected to deploy? I did and the whole front end of my 2008 2500hd Sierra was in the engine. GM does not seem concerned though the cops, tow company and GM certified dealer were. Hmmmm.

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