The media has focused big time on the long line of GM safety recalls, meanwhile many members of the general public have no idea that the Takata airbag recall has swelled to include 14 million vehicles. The airbag issue is not only larger than all of the recent GM recalls, it also is potentially more deadly if not remedied.
The problem with the Takata-made airbags is that they have been used in a variety of Japanese, German and American vehicles. The airbags can without any warning explode, seriously injuring the driver or passengers, and potentially even fatally wounding someone. When I say explode, that doesn’t mean that the airbags just inflate unexpectedly. Instead, metal from the inflater breaks apart into shrapnel and rips through the airbag, possibly hitting the driver or passengers.
Most people are likely not even aware that Takata has been quietly recalling airbags for years and years. If you own a BMW, Nissan or Honda, you might have received notice that the airbags in your vehicle need to be replaced. About 3.6 million cars were recalled in 2013 for airbag problems, with about 6.5 million recalled before then.
The drama has increased thanks to the New York Times, which uncovered the fact that Honda and Takata knew about the problem for years but thought it wasn’t a big deal, finally recalling vehicles starting in 2008. This report has thrust the issue out into the public eye, making Takata and Honda, the supplier’s biggest single customer, look especially bad. The report from the New York Times claims that 139 people have been injured by the faulty airbags, with two confirmed deaths.
The Takata recall has some similarities with the GM ignition switch problem. Reuters uncovered that faulty manufacturing procedures were used to make some of the airbag systems. Because of sloppy records, the company isn’t even sure which vehicles have the bad airbags and which don’t, which is making it necessary to recall a huge number of vehicles to remedy a relatively small problem.