The issue of faulty Takata airbags in GM and other models has been ongoing for some time now. However, there are still numerous vehicles on the road that could be dangerous for the driver and passengers.
General Motors still claims the airbags in more than six million SUVs and trucks are safe. The National highway Traffic Safety Administration has failed to rule on this issue even after four years of receiving petitions to do so. This would be the largest recall on automobiles in the history of the US.
Dangers of Defective Airbags
Takata is the parts supplier based out of Japan that provided airbags for GM vehicles, as well as other models. The recall notices have been for models manufactured between 2002 and 2015. A whistleblower who is a former Takata engineer says that GM is behind other manufacturers in recalls while the airbags are the same as what is being recalled by other automakers.
The airbags contain a propellant that is based on ammonium nitrate. It could cause the airbag to explode unexpectedly, which might release metal shrapnel into the air and cause serious injury. Hundreds of injuries have already been reported around the world from the airbags with 25 deaths being linked to the product.
A spokesperson for GB says that the inflators in the vehicles aren’t an increased risk for the safety of passengers and continue to perform as they are designed. They also stated that none of the airbags included in petitions have exploded either out on the highways or in tests.
On the other side of the issue, advocates for the recalls want the NHTSA to act quickly. Delays make it more difficult for the owners to be contacted as more vehicles are resold or owners move to new addresses.
Takata agreed to oversight by the NHTSA as it phased out its defective products while paying $200 million in civil penalties in 2015. Around 63 million airbags have been recalled, which has impacted 19 vehicle manufacturers.
Handling the Repairs
Because this recall is a massive task, all vehicles were placed into categories by the NHTSA. The most critical were those located in humid areas with older airbags, which would be more likely to explode. Newer vehicles in cooler regions had a lower priority for replacement.
NHTSA had set a deadline for repairs for the top three groups to be completed by the end of 2017 with the next group to be finished at the end of 2019. Automakers have been granted extensions due to issues, such as unavailable replacement parts. No one has met the original deadlines. More than 12.4 million airbags have yet to be replaced, and this number doesn’t include the GM airbags which are part of the petitions.
There is also a question of how many repairs have been completed. An independent monitor report stated a higher number than what is listed by the NHTSA. Some manufacturers say it is because vehicle owners haven’t brought their cars in for repair. Manufacturers have said they received a low response rate from letters and other methods have had varying results.