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Chrysler CEO: Auto Industry “Overreacted” To Takata Airbag Recalls

The CEO of Chrysler’s Italian parent company said that the U.S. auto industry “may have overreacted” to the massive Takata airbag recalls late last year. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles MV, made his statements about the Takata airbag recall during a press conference at the annual North American International Auto Show. Mr. Marchionne told reporters that the call to expand the recall from areas of high humidity to a nationwide notice “may have been overkill.”

Automakers Issue Nationwide Takata Airbag Recalls

Late last year, Chrysler joined Ford, Honda, Mazda, BMW and other automakers in expanding the Takata airbag recall notices to include vehicle owners across the country. The manufacturer’s Takata airbag recall notice limited itself to regions of high humidity, such as Florida and the Gulf Coast states, after laboratory findings showed that the chemical in the airbag inflation system can become volatile under humid conditions. The recall has included millions of vehicles, including at least 3 million from Chrysler.

Deaths Spur Takata Airbag Recall

Reports of fatalities and serious injuries prompted the manufacturer its automaker clients to initiate the Takata airbag recall. At least five deaths have been attributed to the exploding airbag assemblies. Accident reports showed that drivers and front-seat passengers were sprayed with sharp metal and plastic shrapnel from the volatile airbag systems. Another report revealed that, prior to the Takata airbag recall, workers at a manufacturing facility in Mexico suffered injuries after the chemical used in the inflation system exploded.

Takata Airbag Recall Earns Federal Scrutiny

The widespread use of the manufacturer’s airbags, combined with the grisly details of the injuries involved in the crashes, caused federal authorities to take an interest in the Takata airbag recall process. The manufacturer has thus far refused calls from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to expand the total Takata airbag recall nationwide. The NHTSA called for automakers, including Chrysler, to expand their airbag recall notices to include owners across the U.S. The agency asked that Chrysler recall all its models with Takata-branded driver-side airbags.

Takata Airbag Recall Latest Chrysler Problem

Chrysler has also had issues with the NHTSA due to its recalls. Before the Takata airbag recall, the agency criticized the automaker for how it handled its recalls. The agency’s points of contention included the speed and methods by which the company notified the vehicle owners affected by the recalls. When reporters asked Mr. Marchionne if the company had issued recalls just to avoid NHTSA scrutiny, he responded, “Even if I had an answer to that question, I wouldn’t give it to you,” and that “to the best of my knowledge”, the company did not issue any unnecessary recalls.

Sources: Automotive News,  Detroit News

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