The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urgently warning owners of 7.8 million vehicles–mostly older vehicles–to replace defective airbags manufactured by Japanese supplier Takata Corp. Regulators are concerned that defective airbag canisters could explode during an auto accident, releasing shrapnel that could cause personal injuries to car drivers and passengers.
The heightened scrutiny of Takata airbags follows the October 2nd death of Florida resident Hien Tran, reports the Wall Street Journal. Tran was driving her 2001 Honda Accord when debris from an exploding airbag pierced her neck. In early October Toyota Motor Corp. and Takata conducted new tests raising concerns about vehicle safety in hot, humid states.
According to the NHTSA, car owners should “act immediately” to replace defective Takata airbags. It is still unclear whether automakers are recalling subject cars or simply replacing defective airbags voluntarily. In any event, Takata may not have replacement parts until February 2015. If you are an affected car owner, you should know that most problems with these airbags have occurred in hot, humid regions such as Florida and Puerto Rico.
Takata is also under fire by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is investigating whether the company made misleading statements about the safety of its airbags to U.S. regulators. The results of that investigation are still pending. Earlier this year the NHTSA required Takata to repair airbags manufactured between 2000 and 2007 for cars in hot, humid weather states and territories. The new NHTSA warning widely expands the category of affected vehicles.