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Takata announces new airbag inflator recall after filing for bankruptcy

14 July 2017

Takata will recall an additional 2.7-million airbag inflators in the US installed in vehicles manufactured by Nissan, Mazda and Ford, according to a recall notice by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The inflators were made from 2005 through to 2012 but the Japanese company, which filed for bankruptcy in June, did not identify the vehicle models affected in the notice.

Stock image
Stock image

About 68-million Takata inflators are already set to be recalled through 2019 because they may explode in a crash and spray vehicle occupants with metal shards. In early July, Honda confirmed the 11th death linked to the defect in one of its cars in the US. Takata airbag ruptures are now linked to 18 deaths worldwide.

In the worst case, abnormal rupture of inflators that have a desiccant might spur a recall of 130-million airbags worldwide, and carmakers might incur about ¥1.5-trillion ($13bn) in recall costs, Bloomberg quoted an analyst as saying.

Mounting liabilities from the recalls have forced Takata to seek court protection from creditors to facilitate a sale of most of its assets to rival supplier Key Safety Systems. which is owned by China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic, for $1.58bn.

The recall, disclosed on July 12, covers inflators using calcium sulphate as a desiccant. In the recall notice, Takata said it was unaware of any ruptured inflators that used a desiccant in vehicles on the road or in lab testing. The previous recalls focused on inflators without desiccants.

However, after analysing the inflators involved in the latest recall, Takata said some showed a pattern of propellant density reduction over time that is understood to predict a future risk of inflator rupture. Since 2008, the company has used a more powerful desiccant called zeolite to stop inflators from deteriorating.

Years of exposure to hot, humid climates can cause the ammonium nitrate propellant used in Takata inflators to become unstable and ignite with too much force when they deploy in a crash. The chemical desiccant is designed to the keep the ammonium nitrate propellant dry.
Takata said the defect notice disclosed today only applied to the earliest version of desiccated inflators that used calcium sulphate and that later versions used different formulations.

Under a 2015 consent order with the NHTSA, Takata may be required to recall all desiccated inflators unless it is able to prove to the agency that parts are safe by the end of 2019, potentially adding millions more airbags to the recalls.

The bankruptcy filing destroyed most of the remaining value in Takata’s shares, which will be delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange in July. There were angry scenes at the company’s last shareholder meeting in late June, with many expressing outrage at how the car parts company had handled the crisis.

Takata, which is facing lawsuits and huge recall costs, has been accused of hiding the problem with its airbags for years, even as deaths and injuries linked to the crisis mounted. Honda, a major Takata customer, first sounded the alarm that there might be a problem in 2008.

But the scandal reached a peak only in 2014 when earlier deaths started getting more media attention and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration became involved as one recall followed another.

Nearly 100-million cars, including about 70-million in the US, have been subject to the recall.
Takata has already agreed to pay a billion-dollar fine to settle with US safety regulators over its airbags. But its liabilities are reportedly set to top ¥1-trillion ($9bn) in what is the biggest bankruptcy filing for a Japanese manufacturer.

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