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There's so many exploding airbags made by Takata to be replaced that US safety regulators are invoking a a power never used before so that it can speed the fix.
On Tuesday Takata expanded the recalled airbags to 33.8 million vehicles, up from previously disclosed 17 million and making it the largest auto recall in history. The airbags can overinflate and can explode, sending shrapnel into the vehicle’s cabin. The devices have been tied to six deaths and dozens of injuries.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) followed up today by filing papers in the Federal Register saying the patchwork of efforts from the 11 different involved automakers may not be swift enough.
NHTSA has asked makers for input that will allow it to combine the recalls into one coordinated recall where the agency, not manufacturers, will control the production, delivery and installation of replacement air bag inflators.
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In so doing, NHTSA has for the first time in its history used a power granted to it in 2000 under the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act, or TREAD Act, in the wake of a Ford Explorer SUV recall.
"The number of impacted vehicles and manufacturers in combination with the supply issues related to these air bag recalls adds a previously unprecedented level of complexity to this recall," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind wrote in papers posted Thursday in the Federal Register.
At current production levels, the replacement process could take up to two-and-a-half years to complete. Takata says it has increased production to 500,000 inflators per month with plans to make up to 1 million monthly by September. So far it has manufactured about 3.8 million replacements.
Since the recall was expanded on Tuesday, NHTSA's website has been overwhelmed by people keying in vehicle identification numbers to see if their air bags have been recalled.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.