From Crain News Service staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON/DETROIT (May 27, 2015) — A U.S. House of Representatives panel has called a June 2 hearing to probe the Takata Corp. airbag recalls that last week mushroomed to cover 34 million vehicles.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will probe the run-up to last week's expansion and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) response to the defect, according to a statement from the committee.
“We have endured a year of Takata ruptures and recalls and families are still at risk. No excuses. Michiganders, and all Americans, have a right to answers,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a statement.
“When it comes to auto safety, ‘maybe' is not an acceptable answer, and ‘later' is not an acceptable timetable. It's past time for Takata, NHTSA, and the manufacturers to explain to drivers what went wrong and how and when they can fix it.”
Mr. Upton's committee authored a scathing report on NHTSA's handling of the GM ignition-switch recalls last fall, saying the agency made “critical mistakes” and failed to detect the auto maker's defective switches despite “ample evidence” of the problem for more than a decade.
Months of work
Auto makers and safety regulators could still take months to nail down why Takata's airbag inflators are exploding with too much force, meaning consumers cannot be certain replacement inflators installed under a sweeping recall are safe, industry officials involved in the process said.
Takata, 11 auto makers that used its airbag technology and U.S. safety regulators are pursuing separate efforts to determine the root cause of problems linked to at least six deaths.
Replacement inflators that are currently being installed could eventually need to be replaced if it turns out that the real problem was not addressed before Takata began making parts to fix the 34 million vehicles covered by the expanded U.S. recall, several industry officials familiar with the probes said. The airbags can explode with too much force, causing shrapnel to fly out and hit drivers and passengers.