Takata used an extra 3.3 million airbags to expand the largest recall in U.S. history.
AILSA CHANG, host:
The biggest car recall in history is not over. In fact, it’s not even close to completion. We are talking about the national recall of takata airbags. After it began in 2014, some airbags exploded and sprayed on drivers and passengers. Fifteen people in the United States have been killed and more than 180 injured. At the start of the recall, David Friedman acted as acting administrator for the national highway traffic safety administration. He is now in the consumer league. This is the policy branch of consumer reports. He joins me now.
DAVID FRIEDMAN: hi. Thanks for having me.
Chang: ok. This month, takata announced the recall of an additional 3.3 million airbags. Why are there so many faulty airbags? What the hell is going on?
Friedman: well, that’s great, isn’t it? I mean, they’ve recalled as many as 50 million airbags, and we already know that it’s going to move north toward 67-million airbags.
Friedman: why does it ride a bike like this because different airbags have a greater risk. So if you have an older airbags or airbags in high humidity and temperature significantly changes the country/region, and are more likely to be of your car airbags explode, shrapnel can tear airbags, which could result in death or injury.
CHANG: so they prioritize these recalls according to your location and climate.
CHANG: so what are the problems with these airbags that make them deploy like this?
Friedman: so the fundamental problem with these airbags is the inflator. This is a chemical inside the airbag, and a small explosion can really quickly expand the airbag so that it can save lives in a crash. The problem is that the chemicals they use – ammonium nitrate – break down when exposed to high humidity and apparent temperature changes. When it fails, there is more surface area, and when you have more surface area and explosive material, it explodes faster and harder.
Chang: I mean, you know, some people have been notified of these recalls. They were told that the parts were ordered in the background, so it wasn’t necessarily their fault that the car was not repaired. Is that still a problem?
Milton friedman: so, the national highway traffic safety administration has said, there is no fitting problem, but I recently is to view their records, and you already have a general motors, ford and Mazda now say they are beginning to do not have access to spare parts, they want to delay a recall. It scares me. Another problem is, let’s face it. It’s not easy to deal with the recall of your car. And most car companies haven’t done enough to get in touch with consumers and let them come in and fix their cars.
CHANG: it’s still a problem – to advertise to people that they need to bring their cars in.
Friedman: publicity – in fact, at least one company is going beyond that. Honda, for example, went door-to-door and installed some people’s airbags in the driveway. Now, Honda has good reason to do so. They have some of the riskiest cars. If you are in a car accident, some Honda vehicles have a 50% risk of breakage…
Zhang: oh, my god.
Milton friedman:… Where the airbags unfold. This is terrible.
CHANG: David Friedman is director of automotive and product policy analysis for the consumer union. Thank you very much for coming today.
Milton friedman: thank you very much.
CHANG: you can find out if your car has been recalled. Just write down your VIN number and go to the national highway traffic safety administration’s website. This is the nhtsa. Gov/recalls.