As the number of potentially lethal Takata Corp. airbags continues to rise, U.S. senators held a congressional hearing earlier this week to address the status of the largest automotive recall in history. According to the findings of the hearing, around 21 million defective Takata airbags have been repaired or replaced. But that accounts for less than half of the 50 million recalled airbags, affecting approximately 37 million vehicles. And this does not take in to account the millions of airbags that are still expected to be added to the massive recall.
Elected lawmakers questioned the rate of repairs and the actions of both regulators and the 19 automakers affected by the recall. Earlier this year, Ford Motor Co. announced a second death from a ruptured Takata airbag, which occurred over the summer of 2017 in West Virginia. This most recent death raises the total number of fatalities connected to Takata airbags to 22 worldwide. In addition, there have been more than 200 reported injuries connected to the rupturing airbags.
More than a year ago, Takata agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges for concealing the extent of their faulty airbags and pay $1 billion to be distributed to affected individuals, the U.S. government, and the automakers. Six months later, the Japanese seatbelt and airbag maker filed for bankruptcy and is in the process of selling their business to Key Safety Systems, owned by Ningbo Joyson Electric Corp, located in China.
But in the United States the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) took over the recall to ensure it was carried out to completion. Senator Bill Nelson, who serves on the Commerce Committee that held the hearing, does not believe the NHTSA is doing a satisfactory job.
“NHTSA still seems to be playing a game of regulatory whack-a-mole and twiddling its thumbs when it comes to actually enforcing the coordinated recall approach and benchmarks for automakers,” said Nelson. “Overall, these completion rates are disappointing—unacceptable—and remain a cause of great concern.”
Of the 19 affected automakers, Honda Motor Co. was Takata’s largest client. Honda claims to have replaced or repaired around 14 million of the 18.5 million recalled airbags.