Despite its promise to have all of its airbags fixed, Takata has yet to complete this task. In fact, 24% of those recalled airbags have yet to be repaired. That means nearly 12 million vehicles are on the road with defective airbags.
The defects were traced to ammonium nitrate in the inflators that was supposed to burn off upon deployment. Instead, the chemical compound acted as an explosive, causing metal fragments to shoot out. This resulted in 25 deaths and approximately 300 injuries worldwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that “long-term exposure to high heat and humidity can cause these airbags to explode when deployed.” Takata denied the ammonium nitrate was the problem; instead, the company blamed the defects on errors in the manufacturing process at one of its plants.
Between May 2016 and December 2019, Takata repaired 37.5 million airbags. The recalls applied to vehicles with model years as far back as 2001. In an attempt to fix the problem, Takata added a drying agent to the new “desiccated” inflators, but experts said it would not work. In January 2020, Takata announced it was recalling 10 million desiccated inflators. Although the NTHSA announced in May 2020 it found nothing wrong with the new inflators, Volkswagen and General Motors announced recalls for possible defects.
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