Takata airbag recalls continue to expand

Takata airbag recalls continue to expand

Safety while driving isn’t guaranteed, but we assume automakers attempt to make the vehicles as safe as possible to minimize risks. Last year, the massive amount of recalls proved that sometimes they fail causing fatal car accidents to occur.

2014 began with a staggering amount of General Motors recalls for a faulty ignition switch found in compact cars from 2003 to 2011. Almost three million vehicles needed the detent plunger repaired; the spring intended to keep the key in the correct ignition position was millimeters too short with deadly consequences. GM was aware of the issue for a decade and did nothing, resulting in almost 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries at this time.

As the year continued, a new vehicle recall gained attention and affected several automakers. Takata is a major parts supplier for brands like Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler, BMW, Mazda, GM and Ford, among others.

Initial reports stated the Takata-made airbags in models from 2002 to 2008 could shoot shrapnel upon deployment during an accident. The 10 automakers affected began with a recall of the vehicles found in humid areas like Florida and Hawaii, almost reaching 8 million.

The issue goes back to the propellant used to inflate the airbags. In the early 90s, most airbag manufacturers used sodium azide, a toxic compound with the potential to cause health defects, including chemical burns and breathing problems, when deployed.

Searching for a new solution, Takata found tetrazole and believed it to be a better solution. Branded as “Envirosure,” the airbag propellant was used starting in the 1998 models. Despite the positive affects, tetrazole proved too costly for Takata as the competition grew. In 1999, the idea of using ammonium nitrate was introduced to cut costs.

Ammonium nitrate is a volatile combination, cycling through five solid states. Changes in temperature cause the nitrate propellant to switch states and absorb moisture. Engineers at Takata worked to stabilize the substance, but it is no easy feat. Other airbag manufacturers found alternatives given the dangerous nature of ammonium nitrate.

This compound is found in 17 million vehicles worldwide with nine confirmed deaths associated with the deadly airbags, more than half occurring in the United States.

Over time, vehicles in humid areas may experience a breaking down of the propellant. If the airbag deploys after this occurs, it can launch metal pieces throughout the vehicles, with shrapnel lodging in drivers and passengers.

As more information is released, the automakers that used the damaged airbags are expanding the recalls past humid areas and encouraging all owners to have their vehicles checked. Takata continues to use ammonium nitrate with the airbag replacements.

In response to this, several automakers signed contracts with Autoliv Inc., the largest airbag supplier in the world. The company will create around 25 million inflators to use with the replacement Takata airbags to ensure safety.

Last year doubled the 2004 record for most recalls in a year with 60 million, but as automakers using Takata airbags continue to expand the total number recalled, 2015 may be the year of the recall.

Below is a list of the vehicles affected by the Takata airbag recall:

BMW

  • 2000 – 2005: 3 Series Sedan
  • 2000 – 2006: 3 Series Coupe
  • 2000 – 2005: 3 Series Sports Wagon
  • 2000 – 2006: 3 Series Convertible
  • 2001 – 2006: M3 Coupe
  • 2001 – 2006: M3 Convertible

Chrysler

  • 2003 – 2008: Dodge Ram 1500
  • 2005 – 2008: Dodge Ram 2500
  • 2006 – 2008: Dodge Ram 3500
  • 2006 – 2008: Dodge Ram 4500
  • 2008 – Dodge Ram 5500
  • 2005 – 2008: Dodge Durango
  • 2005 – 2008: Dodge Dakota
  • 2005 – 2008: Chrysler 300
  • 2007 – 2008: Chrysler Aspen

Ford

  • 2004 – Ranger
  • 2005 – 2006: GT
  • 2005 – 2007: Mustang

General Motors

  • 2003 – 2005: Pontiac Vibe
  • 2005 – Saab 9-2X

Honda

  • 2001 – 2007: Honda Accord
  • 2001 – 2005: Honda Civic
  • 2002 – 2006: Honda CR-V
  • 2003 – 2011: Honda Element
  • 2002 – 2004: Honda Odyssey
  • 2003 – 2007: Honda Pilot
  • 2006 – Honda Ridgeline
  • 2003 – 2006: Acura MDX
  • 2002 – 2003: Acura TL/CL
  • 2005 – Acura RL

Mazda

  • 2003 – 2007: Mazda6
  • 2006 – 2007: MazdaSpeed6
  • 2004 – 2008: Mazda RX-8
  • 2004 – 2005: MPV
  • 2004 – B-Series Truck

Mitsubishi

  • 2004 – 2005: Lancer
  • 2006 – 2007: Raider

Nissan

  • 2001 – 2003: Nissan Maxima
  • 2001 – 2004: Nissan Pathfinder
  • 2002 – 2004: Nissan Sentra
  • 2001 – 2004: Infiniti I30/I35
  • 2002 – 2003: Infiniti QX4
  • 2003 – 2005: Infiniti FX35/FX45

Subaru

  • 2003 – 2005: Baja
  • 2003 – 2005: Legacy
  • 2003 – 2005: Outback
  • 2004 – 2005: Impreza

Toyota

  • 2002 – 2005: Lexus SC
  • 2002 – 2005: Toyota Corolla
  • 2003 – 2005: Toyota Corolla Matrix
  • 2002 – 2005: Toyota Sequoia
  • 2003 – 2005: Toyota Tundra

Sources

  • Consumer Reports, “Everything you need to know about the Takata airbag recall,” (Dec. 19, 2014). [Link]
  • NHTSA, “Consumer Advisory: Vehicle owners with defective airbags urged to take immediate action, ” (Oct. 22, 2014). [Link]
  • David Sedgwick, “Autoliv has contracts for 25 million replacement Takata airbag inflators,” Automotive News (Jan. 15, 2015). [Link]
  • Hiroko Tabuchi, “Takata’s switch to cheaper airbag propellant is at center of crisis,” The New York Times(Nov. 19, 2014). [Link]
  • Angelo Young, “Consumer confusion mounts as Takata airbag recalls expand,” International Business Times (Dec. 4, 2014). [Link]
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