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Takata Airbags Are “Ticking Time Bombs”, Say Senators

A Senate panel investigating the defective Takata airbags found in millions of vehicles called the systems “lethal deathtraps”, “a live hand grenade”, and “ticking time bombs” for drivers. The hearing questioned whether the recent recall of the Takata airbags should be expanded nationwide. The current recall includes only Southern states with areas of high humidity. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) told the panel that an estimated 100 million vehicles worldwide have Takata airbags, including 30 million vehicles in the U.S.

Reasons For the Takata Airbag Recall

Several tests have show that the chemical propellant in the Takata airbag assembly becomes highly volatile in humid climates. Under these conditions, the propellant will cause the Takata airbag assembly to eject sharp metal and plastic shards at high velocities into the vehicle occupants. The problem has been linked to five deaths, including four in the U.S. The propellant was also linked to a fatal accident at the company’s factory in Mexico.

Honda Most Affected By Takata Airbag Recall

The Takata airbag recall has affected nearly every major auto manufacturer, ranging from Japanese car makers Mazda, Nissan and Toyota to American automakers Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. More than 600,000 cars from German automaker BMW are also on the recall list. The automaker most affected by the Takata airbag problem has been Honda, with over 5 million vehicles on its recall list. The recall includes most Honda models from 2001-2007, including the Accord and Civic sedans, the CR-V, Element and Odyssey sport utility vehicles, and the Acura MDX and RL luxury models.

Senators Worry About Takata Airbag Problems

In one exchange during the Takata airbag hearings, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) asked Honda executive vice president Rick Schostek if the the 2007 Honda Civic the senator’s wife drives would be safe for the couple’s 18-year-old daughter. Although the 2007 model year is outside of the Takata airbag recall list, Mr. Schostek paused for several seconds before answering that, if the vehicle was not on the recall list, it was safe to drive. Senator Nelson warned his colleague that his daughter should “not…drive South in her Honda.” Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) stated that Mr. Schostek’s pause before answering shows, “We have a problem.”

Reforms Proposed After Takata Airbag Recall

The senators also considered several product safety reforms in light of the Takata airbag hearings. Current laws place a $35 million cap on fines for automakers who fail to make timely recalls Senator Nelson has proposed lifting that cap. Senators Heller, Nelson and McCaskill, along with incoming Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) have also proposed whistleblower protection for employees of automakers who report potential safety defects, as well as stronger oversight of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Source: Detroit News

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