If you're tired of hearing about Takata's fatally flawed airbags, we have some bad news. Though the Takata recall fiasco has fallen out of the headlines in recent weeks--eclipsed by scandals at Volkswagen and Mitsubishi, no doubt--it's about to return in a very big way.
How big? Takata-related recalls in the U.S. currently affect 28.8 million airbag inflators on 24 million vehicles, but according to reports, that figure could soon balloon to nearly 70 million inflators on an untold number of vehicles. An announcement is expected this week, possibly today.
Sources familiar with the issue haven't provided complete details about the recall expansion. However, the move likely stems from increasing pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (That's a welcome turnaround, since the agency wasted plenty of time on this years-long recall by not being very effective.)
The announcement is rumored to affect between 35 million to 40 million more Takata inflators--basically, all frontal inflators that don't make use of a drying agent. As you might recall, one of the problems with Takata's deadly airbags is that the ammonium nitrate they use becomes destabilized by moisture. That, in turn, has caused airbags to explode upon deployment, killing at least 11 people worldwide and injuring more than 100.
Previously, Takata had said that it would phase out the use of ammonium nitrate in its airbag systems by 2018, and the company promised to declare any airbag using the compound as unsafe unless it could prove otherwise by 2019.
In the face of mounting evidence against the use of ammonium nitrate, it appears that NHTSA has finally convinced Takata to cut its losses and replace the majority of airbags equipped with it now.
The new Takata recalls won't take place overnight, though. Because of ongoing parts shortages, they'll have to roll out over several years.
And even after these recalls are conducted, there will still be roughly 45 million Takata airbag inflators equipped with ammonium nitrate roaming the streets--unless, of course, the recall expands again.
However, we can say with certainty that the Takata recall--already the largest in auto industry history--is likely to hold that dubious honor for many, many years to come.