30 million more vehicles being investigated in big Takata airbag recall

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday confirmed that it has opened an investigation into another 30 million vehicles that could be driving around with ticking time bombs — possibly defective airbag inflators made by the Takata Corporation.

The concern is, the inflators can explode and, in rare instances, send deadly metal fragments flying, with deadly consequences. 

The worldwide Takata recalls taken together were already the largest safety recall in automotive history, involving more than 67 million Takata airbag inflators recalled in the United States and more than 100 million worldwide. Millions of those vehicles are still driving around with potentially dangerous airbags.

The defective inflators have killed at least 28 people worldwide, including 19 in the United States, and have caused more than 400 injuries. In the U.S., 16 of those deaths were in Honda vehicles, two in Fords and one in a BMW. Overseas, 9 other Honda deaths occurred in Malaysia, Brazil and Mexico.

NHTSA on Tuesday said the additional 30 million vehicles were manufactured by two dozen automakers between 2001 and 2019 — and comprise 1,384 different vehicle models in all. 

They include vehicles from Honda, Ford, Toyota, General Motors, Nissan, Subaru, Tesla, Ferrari, Mazda, Daimler, BMW, Chrysler, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover and others.  

The new investigation is an engineering analysis — meaning that this new round of vehicles is not yet part of the greater recall. NHTSA said that “while no present safety risk has been identified, further work is needed to evaluate the future risk of non-recalled” inflators. The agency “is not aware at this time of any ruptures, injuries or fatalities due to propellant degradation in these inflators, and the driving public does not need to take any action.”

The inflators in the new investigation contain a desiccant, or drying agent, that is supposed to keep moisture from degrading the device. In the previous Takata recalls, propellant that was designed to inflate the airbag in an accident could break down after long-term exposure to large fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Those airbags did not contain a drying agent.

Honda said automakers “have been working collaboratively with NHTSA to assure the safety of these inflators for several years. … Honda is committed to quickly informing NHTSA and other stakeholders if this ongoing analysis shows any risk of rupture.”

The Japanese automaker vowed to take quick action “if Honda believes that there is a threat to the safety of our customers.”

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