Tag Archive | "air bags"

Feds Fine Takata $14,000 Daily for Not Cooperating


The federal government has levied a $14,000 per day fine against air bag manufacturer Takata Corp. for failing to cooperate with a safety investigation over causes for its air bag inflators rupturing, a defect that has resulted in at least four deaths in the U.S, reported Detroit Free Press.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the fine Friday morning at a ceremony in Richmond, Va., where he and Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called on Congress to pass legislation requiring rental car companies and used car dealers to fix safety defects before renting or selling vehicles subject to a recall.

The fine represent the government’s latest tactic in a clash that has been going on since 2008. The recall has expanded to cover about 17 million vehicles in the U.S., of which automakers have replaced the air bags in nearly 2 million, said NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge.

“Safety is a shared responsibility and Takata’s failure to fully cooperate with our investigation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Foxx. “For each day that Takata fails to fully cooperate with our demands, we will hit them with another fine.”

Takata said it was “surprised and disappointed” by Foxx’s action and took issue with the contention the air bag supplier had not been fully cooperative.

In December, NHTSA issued two special orders to Takata requiring the company to provide documentation and other material relating to the agency’s ongoing investigation. The agency contends Takata has not fully complied with those orders.

NHTSA has said inflators in Takata bags may rupture and explode, particularly in very humid climates, spreading metal shards that have been tied to at least five deaths in the U.S. For passenger-side air bags the recall is limited to Florida, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Puerto Rico.

Five automakers with driver-side Takata bags that could be at risk have expanded their recalls nationwide.

Takata said it provided NHTSA with almost 2.5 million pages of documents and has been communicating regularly with the agency. Neither Takata, the 10 automakers nor NHTSA have discovered the root cause of the malfunction.

“We continue to keep NHTSA closely informed on the extensive testing efforts we have undertaken,” the company’s statement said. “That work has, so far, supported our initial view that age and sustained exposure to heat and humidity is a common factor in the small number of inflators that have malfunctioned.”

After reports of at least one death and other injuries in non-humid regions, NHTSA in December expanded the recall nationwide for driver-side bags, but Takata has resisted. The Japanese-based supplier is conducting its own investigation led by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner.

Separately, the 10 automakers who installed Takata bags have come together to hire an independent expert to investigate the cause of the malfunction. Five automakers have expanded their recalls to the entire country.

Consumers can determine if the vehicle they plan to rent or buy has an open recall that needs to be addressed by using NHTSA’s free Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) look-up tool https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin.

NHTSA’s Safercar mobile app on both provides users free access to key safety information, including recalls and safety performance.

In addition to imposing the fine, Foxx urged Congress to pass the Grow America Act which would extend to rental cars and used cars the existing requirement that all outstanding recalls be repaired before they are sold.

The most recent fatality related to Takata’s air bags occurred Jan. 18 in Spring, Texas, near Houston. It involved a 2002 Honda Accord, which was purchased used while under recall, but neither the previous owner nor the dealer had the air bag replaced.

The Harris County medical examiner’s preliminary report said the driver, Carlos Solis,died of blunt force injuries to the neck.

The Grow America Act would fund infrastructure projects needed to promote economic growth, and enhance safety and efficiency. It also seeks to boost NHTSA’s budget to $908 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, including increasing the agency’s defect investigation budget to $31.3 million – approximately triple the current level. It also would raise the maximum penalty NHTSA could levy for failure to report safety defects from $35 million to $300 million.

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Toyota Recalls More Cars for Dangerous Takata Air Bags


Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday it would recall 57,000 vehicles globally to replace potentially deadly air bags made by Takata Corp, as a safety crisis around the Japanese auto parts maker looks far from being contained, reported Reuters.

Toyota’s action follows a recall by rival Honda Motor Co for the same problem two weeks ago after revelations of a fifth death, in Malaysia, linked to Takata’s air bag inflator. More than 16 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide since 2008 over Takata’s air bag inflators, which can explode with too much force and spray metal fragments into the car.

Toyota is recalling some Vitz subcompacts, called Yaris in some markets, and RAV4 crossover models made between December 2002 and March 2004. About 40,000 are in Japan, 6,000 in Europe and the rest in other markets outside North America. Toyota said it was not aware of any injury or death related to the recall.

Separately, Toyota’s small-car subsidiary Daihatsu Motor Co also issued a recall, in Japan, of 27,571 Mira minivehicles produced between December 2002 and May 2003 for the same reason – its first recall involving Takata inflators.

About 2.6 million vehicles have been recalled in Japan so far for Takata’s air bag inflators, a transport ministry official said.

Takata-related recalls are almost certain to balloon after U.S. safety regulators on Wednesday ordered the company to expand a regional recall of driver-side air bags to cover the entire United States, not just hot and humid areas where the air bag inflators are thought to become more volatile.

Takata has so far resisted expanding the recall, saying that could divert replacement parts away from the high-humidity regions that need them most.

TUESDAY DEADLINE

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given Takata until Tuesday to issue a nationwide recall, and could fine it up to $7,000 per vehicle if it doesn’t comply. It remains unclear how many more vehicles that would add, but it could be in the millions, affecting five automakers: Ford Motor Co, Honda, Chrysler Group LLC, Mazda Motor Corp and BMW AG.

A U.S.-wide recall of driver-side air bags could cost an estimated 70 billion yen ($600 million), Nomura Credit Research analyst Shintaro Niimura wrote in a Nov. 26 report.

“Takata could need nearly 200 billion yen ($1.7 billion) of reserves in the event of a U.S. nationwide recall (including passenger-side air bags), and the company’s cash-on-hand would be tightly squeezed,” he wrote, noting Takata had just 8.33 billion yen of cash and deposits.

“If the company makes any missteps, we cannot say that there is ‘zero’ chance of the company dying a sudden death – that is, being hit with excessive debt or facing a cash-insolvency bankruptcy,” Niimura added.

SHARES HIT

NHTSA’s action and the latest recalls come on the heels of an announcement by Japan’s transport ministry on Wednesday that it received a report of an “unusual deployment” of a Takata air bag as it was being removed from a scrapped car on Nov. 6. The inflator was manufactured in January 2003 at Takata’s Monclova, Mexico factory, and had not been subject to recalls, at least in Japan, raising the prospect of an expanded recall, the ministry said.

A Toyota spokesman said the scrapped car was a 2003 Will Cypha, a Japan-only compact model that is no longer in production. Toyota said it was investigating the issue as part of its wider probe into Takata’s air bag inflators. “We will take prompt and appropriate action if we find there is a need for a recall as a result of the investigation,” it said.

Takata shares dropped as much as 7.9 percent in Tokyo on Thursday, closing down 4.8 percent. Toyota shares eased 0.5 percent and Daihatsu shares slipped 1.2 percent, roughly in line with the broader market. Shares of Honda, Takata’s top customer, underperformed other auto stocks, falling 3.3 percent.

Honda had said the Takata air bag inflator that failed in the Malaysia crash had likely been exposed to excessive moisture at the supplier’s now-shuttered plant in LaGrange, Georgia. A transport ministry official said no further recalls are expected in Japan related to the problem identified at the LaGrange line between November 2001 and November 2003.

A second U.S. congressional hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, where representatives from Takata, NHTSA and several automakers will testify.

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U.S. Auto Regulator Seeks Nationwide Recall of Takata Air Bags


The U.S. auto safety regulator has told Japanese supplier Takata Corp and five automakers to expand nationwide a regional recall of potentially lethal air bags, increasing pressure on the industry to move faster in a growing scandal, reported Reuters.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also scolded Takata for what it called “an unwillingness to move forward” on a nationwide recall, and said the company needs to be open with the U.S. public about the risks of its air bags.

Takata and automakers have so far taken a targeted approach in recalling U.S. vehicles with air bags that can rupture upon deployment, shooting shrapnel into the car. Five fatalities, including four in the United States, have been linked to the air bags.

The U.S. regional recall has involved 4.1 million cars in hot and humid areas where the air bags may be prone to fail, including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and parts of Texas along the Gulf of Mexico. Most of those cars are made by Honda Motor, Takata’s biggest client.

In a call with reporters on Tuesday, NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman declined to estimate how many more cars would be included in a nationwide recall.

Shares in Takata dropped by as much as 7.8 percent in Tokyo on Wednesday, and have now slid 64 percent this year to 5-1/2-year lows.

Takata has already set aside more than $750 million for recall-related costs, but Takayuki Atake, manager of credit research at SMBC Nikko Securities, warned a national recall would need more provisioning and raised the risk of a deeper credit rating downgrade than initially expected.

Japan Credit Rating Agency has put Takata’s single-A rating on negative watch. “However, risk of a (three-notch) downgrade to BBB would increase if the expanded recall leads to further erosion of shareholder equity and/or a negative impact on Takata’s capacity for generating profits and cash flow,” Atake wrote in a report.

Takata, NHTSA, Honda and Chrysler have been called to testify at a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday, where Takata will be represented by Hiroshi Shimizu, a 36-year company veteran and senior vice president of global quality assurance.

MILLIONS MORE?

Around 16 million cars with Takata air bags have been recalled worldwide over the past six years, with more than 10 million of those in the United States.

NHTSA’s Friedman said the recall expansion was prompted by an August incident involving a 2007 Ford Mustang in North Carolina, outside the area of the regional recalls.

The agency ordered Ford, Mazda Motor, Honda, Chrysler and BMW to send notifications for replacement driver-side air bags to consumers quickly. “We will begin a process both with Takata and the automakers to force them to recall all affected” vehicles, Friedman said.

Ford, Honda, Mazda and Chrysler said they would continue to cooperate with NHTSA and plan to evaluate their call for a national recall. But each stopped short of saying they would expand beyond the current set of cars they are fixing. BMW is already recalling air bags nationally.

Spokesman Alby Berman said Takata would cooperate with regulators and automakers if an expanded recall is required, but noted that “of almost 1,000 passenger and driver inflators from outside the high humidity areas that have been evaluated to date, none have ruptured.”

“Takata is concerned that a national recall could potentially divert replacement air bags from where they’re needed, putting lives at risk,” he said in a statement.

It’s unclear just how long it could take to replace so many air bags. NHTSA said it is pressuring Takata to ramp up production of replacement parts and has said it will explore using other suppliers to help with production if needed.

Takata has said it would add two production lines at its Monclova, Mexico plant in January to make replacement air bag inflators. Workers there have told Reuters that a single line has a typical quota of around 200 inflators an hour, meaning it could take five months to make 1 million inflators working around the clock on two lines, five days a week.

NOT ENOUGH

Auto safety advocates and lawmakers said NHTSA’s latest move may still not capture the scope of the problem, is too late, and may not be enforceable.

Democratic Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal said they were pleased NHTSA recognized the “national scope” of the problem,” but said the call to replace driver-side air bags should be expanded to also include passenger air bags.

NHTSA agreed in June to allow automakers to do a regional recall and use their discretion in deciding how and when to notify customers and replace faulty parts, resulting in confusion for car owners receiving mixed messages.

Friedman criticized Takata for resisting when NHTSA this week called on it to issue a defect notification nationwide for air bags of a certain design. “Takata’s initial response was an unwillingness to move forward, and frankly, that is one of the reasons we are talking to you today, because I believe everyone needs to understand that Takata needs to act,” he said.

Asked about Friedman’s comment, Takata said: “We have been dealing sincerely with U.S. authorities and … will continue to do so, prioritizing customers’ safety.”

NHTSA also addressed lingering confusion over what exactly makes some air bags explode. It said it ordered Takata to provide under oath documents and information on the propellant used in newly designed air bag inflators, after Takata recently said it had changed the chemical mix of its inflators.

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Chrysler To Start Fixing Takata Air Bags In December


Chrysler Group LLC will start repairs on about 371,000 vehicles equipped with potentially defective Takata Corp. air bag inflators in December, nearly six months after it said it would comply with a request by U.S. safety regulators to make fixes, reported The WSJ.

The company, in a letter to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration dated Nov. 5, also said it had tested in September several Takata-made inflators salvaged from affected models in Florida and concluded they were working properly.

Chrysler, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, said it is taking the issue “very seriously” but noted numerous times in its letter that “no defect determination has been made” in the population of vehicles NHTSA is investigating. It has maintained that its field action is “not a safety recall.”

The letter, provided to The Wall Street Journal by NHTSA, contained Chrysler’s response to questions posed by the agency on Oct. 29 about a potential defect involving Takata air bags kept for prolong periods in hot, humid climates. Nine other auto makers also received letters requesting information, including Honda Motor Co. , Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG . The responses have yet to be posted to NTHSA’s website.

U.S. safety regulators say they are aware of six incidents in which the air bag has exploded with too much force during a collision, spraying the driver and occupants with metal fragments.

All the incidents occurred in high-humidity states and U.S. territories and one involves a 2006 Dodge Charger in southern Florida in which the driver was injured.

However, NHTSA and Takata haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact defect, leaving auto makers to decide for themselves what to do with the suspected air bags. Some are formally recalling the vehicles, while others are replacing the inflators through so-called regional service or field actions, which have less regulatory scrutiny.

Chrysler now plans to launch its field action Dec. 19 to replace Takata air bag inflators in vehicles residing in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In June, it said it would swap out the inflators at NHTSA’s request but hasn’t had parts available to make the fixes.

The company, in its letter, said it had investigated getting replacement parts from other suppliers but concluded it would take too long. It now plans to use newer Takata inflators in the repairs.

The auto maker says it has identified more than 10,000 air bag deployments on Chrysler vehicles in the U.S. equipped with the suspected inflators. Of those, it is only aware of the one air bag rupture incident on the Dodge Charger.

The company’s letter follows Honda Motor’s announcement last week that it would upgrade its so-called “regional safety campaign” to a formal recall, after testing found that air bags kept in high-humidity areas resulted in abnormal deployments.

Honda’s recall limits repairs to 13 high-humidity states and U.S. territories—specifically, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saipan, Guam, and American Samoa. The specific number of vehicles is undetermined at this point, the company said.

Chrysler, in its letter, says there are two distinct populations of air bag inflators as defined by Takata—one that the supplier has determined to have a defect and another group still under investigation.

The company says the inflators on its models belong to the latter group, which includes air bag inflators on the driver’s side produced between Jan. 1, 2004, and June 30, 2007, and passenger side air bags made between June 1, 2000, and July 31, 2004, it said.

Chrysler estimates that about 37.8 million vehicles world-wide could be equipped with what it calls the “beta” type of inflators.

In its testing, Chrysler worked with Tataka engineers to analyze 18 drivers’ side air bag inflators obtained from Florida salvage yards and one from Chrysler’s tech lab. While they did find some traces of elevated moisture, they concluded that the air bags “would have deployed as designed in the field.”

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Honda Heightens U.S. Response to Problems With Takata Air Bags


Honda Motor Co. said on Thursday that it is expanding its U.S. response to potentially explosive air bags made by Takata Corp. , adding a small number of vehicles in certain hot and humid regions and upgrading its previous action to an official recall, reported The WSJ.

Honda’s move comes after rivals Toyota Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. took similar action last month over Takata air bags that could send out metal fragments into the cabin of cars. The issue is linked to as many as four deaths.

Honda said it is officially recalling vehicles equipped with the potentially defective Takata air bags in 13 high-humidity states and U.S. territories—specifically, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saipan, Guam, and American Samoa— and upgrading its previous action from a so-called safety-improvement campaign.

Honda also said it has determined the air bags contain a defect which if exposed to high-humidity conditions over long periods, can result in an “abnormal deployment.”

The specific number of vehicles under recall is undetermined at this point, the company said. The change to a U.S. recall status now requires Honda to abide by certain regulatory reporting requirements.

Honda said no injuries or fatalities have been confirmed for “the identified [vehicle] population related to this recall.”

The company’s move is in response to letters that the U.S. federal auto-safety regulator sent to 10 car makers and Takata in late October. In the letters, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested that companies promptly recall vehicles in certain hot and humid regions, in some cases regions where they had already announced safety campaigns.

The NHTSA and Takata have said the air bags are at risk of exploding with too much force during a collision and spraying the driver and occupants with metal fragments.

In all, NHTSA has said 7.8 million vehicles made by 10 auto makers could be affected by the potentially defective Takata air bags and has urged customers to act immediately to notices sent by the manufacturers to make repairs. Of those vehicles, NHTSA has identified 5 million Honda and Acura cars.

The agency Takata have come under fire in recent weeks by lawmakers and safety advocates calling for a nationwide recall of all cars suspected to have the defective air bags.

Earlier this week, the NHTSA required Honda to produce documents pertaining to its eight recalls and service actions since 2008 involving Tataka air bags. Most of the cars involved are older-model vehicles. Honda says the repair involves replacing the air bag inflater on the passenger side.

The NHTSA since June has been investigating whether high humidity and temperature in certain regions had any impact on Takata air bags and inflaters.

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Faulty Takata Air Bags May Not Be Replaced for Months


U.S. safety regulators do not expect Japanese auto parts maker Takata Corp to be able to fully supply replacement parts for millions of defective air bags until January or later, and urged Takata and the automakers it supplies to seek additional parts from other companies, reported Reuters.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has come under fire for being too lax and slow in dealing with the defective air bags, also called on automakers to be ready to expand their recalls beyond the warm and humid regions believed to be the epicenter of the problem.

The defective air bags, which can launch metal shards into car occupants, have been tied to at least four deaths and many serious injuries. They have triggered the recall of more than 10 million vehicles since 2008 by 10 different manufacturers.

Takata must boost production and even tap competitors to address demand while car makers must do much more to aid the recall effort, a top safety official said in letters to manufacturers.

“More can and should be done as soon as possible to prevent any further tragedies,” the agency’s deputy director, David Friedman wrote to auto makers.

Car makers should boost advertising to alert drivers of air bag dangers and offer loaner cars during repair, he said. He said car makers should even test Takata air bags themselves, as regulators keep studying why the safety device has been involved in so many mishaps.

If test results indicate potential defects with inflators in other parts of the country, “you will need to act quickly to expand your recall,” he wrote, also asking if the companies are seeking to buy replacement parts from other suppliers.

Friedman will meet with Takata executives on Thursday and expects weekly updates on progress, the official wrote.

Regulators reached out to General Motors, Nissan, Ford, BMW, Honda, Mazda, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Toyota.

Separately on Thursday, lawmakers called for an independent review of NHTSA and asked whether the agency could do more to detect and snuff out design dangers. The agency briefed U.S. lawmakers earlier this week.

The agency released summaries of three meetings with Takata and vehicle manufacturers over the past three months. The summaries indicate that an estimated 3.1 million inflators would need to be replaced as part of the regional recall announced in June. By September, that estimate had grown to 4.3 million inflators.

In a letter to Takata Senior Vice President Kazuo Higuchi, NHTSA Deputy Director David Friedman demanded that Takata provide updated estimates of its ability to produce replacement parts and called on the Japanese firm to provide details about a program to test inflators “as soon as possible.”

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