By Ryan Beene, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (Oct. 22, 2015) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it will decide by Thanksgiving whether to order additional measures to speed up the recalls of more than 19 million U.S. vehicles with Takata airbag inflators that may explode in a crash.
The defective Takata inflators have been linked to 8 deaths and around 100 injuries, but more than a year after the recalls began to significantly grow in volume, fewer than a quarter of the vehicles have been repaired, NHTSA officials said in a presentation today. As a result, NHTSA said it's studying several steps to speed or possibly expand the Takata recalls.
“It is hard to imagine that these repairs can happen fast enough for anyone,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.
Among the possible actions NHTSA may take:
• Ordering auto makers to speed up their repair efforts in high-humidity regions that NHTSA has targeted as a top priority, which may require them to expand their orders of replacement parts from suppliers;
• Allowing independent repair shops, not just new-car dealers, to complete repairs if dealers are unable to keep up with the pace of repairs;
• Appointing an independent third party to oversee the recalls and coordinate the efforts of auto makers and suppliers;
• Ordering Takata or auto makers to conduct additional testing on replacement parts to ensure that new parts don't carry the same defect and risk of rupture;
• Expanding the recalls to cover even more vehicles in the future.
NHTSA's presentation Oct. 22 was a summary of its early findings from a months-long investigation into Takata's defective airbag inflators and an update on its efforts to coordinate a response. The agency has assumed a broad role in overseeing the search for clues about why the inflators rupture, and in coordinating the repairs of recalled vehicles from 12 different manufacturers, with replacement parts from several airbag suppliers, including Takata.