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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just ordered Takata to order the recall of another 2.7 million potentially defective airbag inflators, a move that will cover vehicles sold by Ford, Mazda, and Nissan.
Earlier this week, Honda reported the death of a 12th American caused by faulty Takata airbags. Worldwide, at least 18 have been killed, with another 180 known to have been injured. About 70 million airbags have been covered by recalls in the U.S., a figure that grows to more than 100 million worldwide.
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Takata declared bankruptcy last month, its assets sold to Detroit-based supplier Key Safety Systems. The move is expected to help speed up the production of replacement airbag inflators. A shortage of parts has meant extended wait times for many owners looking to get their vehicles repaired.
The latest recall covers 627,000 Nissan Versa passenger cars from the 2007 to 2012 model-years, with over 500,000 of them sold in the U.S.
Ford faces the biggest impact, with 2.2 million vehicles covered, though it has not yet released specific details. Mazda said only about 6,000 of its B-Series trucks will need to be repaired.
Less Than One-Third of America's 70M Faulty Airbags Have Been Fixed
The exact number of vehicles covered by the various Takata recalls to date has yet to be clarified, as some models use more than one of the faulty devices.
Initially, it was believed that a manufacturing problem at two North American factories caused Takata inflators to be vulnerable to use in warm, high humidity climates. That led to an early, geographically based recall. But as evidence mounted of problems in cooler, drier climes the recall was ramped up significantly and now extends to many other countries, as well.
Chinese regulators have been pressuring Takata and various automakers to speed up recalls, echoing the concerns of NHTSA and safety advocates in the U.S. According to federal data, barely one-third of the vehicles covered by previous Takata recall campaigns have been repaired so far.
A lack of spare parts has been one of the concerns, though the bankruptcy sale of Takata “will accelerate the removal of dangerous airbag inflators,” Peter Prieto, the court-appointed Chair Lead Counsel for many of the consumer plaintiffs taking legal action against the Japanese supplier, said last month.
Tough to Track Down Owners of Recalled Vehicles
Safety experts say the replacement parts shortage is just one of the problems, however. They also note that older vehicles covered by the recalls may have been sold multiple times, making it hard to trace current owners and advise them of the safety problem.
The latest expansion of the Takata recall has many safety advocates worried that the number of vehicles using faulty airbags could expand even further.
"Takata has told the public that their line of airbag inflators with moisture absorbent was safe. This recall now raises serious questions about the threat posed by all of Takata’s ammonium nitrate-based airbags," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and frequent critic of Takata, in a statement. "If even more are found to be defective, it will take us from the biggest recall ever to something that could become mind-boggling."