The nation’s largest vehicle recall could soon be even bigger: federal safety regulators are currently discussing the possibility of expanding Takata’s shrapnel-shooting airbag recall to cover another 70 million to 90 million inflators.
Reuters, citing a person with knowledge of the matter, reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is exploring whether the additional inflators should be deemed a danger to drivers and passengers and recalled.
If they decide to go forward with the expanded safety recall, it would quadruple the current initiative that covers 28 million airbag inflators.
The airbag inflators are built with the chemical propellant ammonium nitrate, which can become volatile if exposed to water or humid conditions. If this occurs, the safety devices have been found to explode with enough force to send shrapnel from the inflator canister shooting at drivers and passengers. So far, the devices have been linked to nine deaths in the U.S., 10 worldwide, and hundreds of injuries.
According to documents viewed by Reuters, as many as 120 million Takata vehicles may contain the volatile chemical. However, an exact number of vehicles affected by the safety defect is hard to determine, as some have more than one inflator, and not all inflators are made by the same manufacturer.
Takata declined to comment on the possibility of an expanded recall, but told Reuters that it was “cooperating fully with regulators and our automotive customers and continues to take aggressive action to advance vehicle safety.”
Gordon Trowbridge, spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, tells Reuters that the agency continues to investigate all Takata inflators with ammonium nitrate, but there isn’t currently enough evidence to issue additional recalls.
“This issue will take years to resolve,” he told Reuters.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that federal regulators were being urged by lawmakers and safety advocates to order a complete recall of all vehicles with any type of airbag produced by the Japanese parts maker.