Regulators May Expand Takata Airbag Recall

After 7 deaths and 98 alleged injuries, NHTSA is keeping a close eye on airbags.

— -- The nation’s largest auto safety recall could become even bigger.

“NHTSA will continue to keep a close eye on this matter,” NHTSA Vehicle Integrity Chief Scott Yon promised today.

Approximately 23 million driver and passenger front airbags produced by Takata have already been recalled after automakers discovered that inflators in these airbags could rupture, spraying metal shrapnel at car passengers. This recall, the largest in U.S. history, affects 19 million automobiles.

The agency is considering using what's called an "accelerated remedy" to speed up the repair process.

At least seven people have died and 98 people have been injured by Takata airbag ruptures in the U.S., the NHTSA said. Victims suffered facial lacerations, broken facial bones and loss of eyesight. By NHTSA’s calculation, nearly 1 in 10 ruptures ended in death.

“To speak plainly, the nearly 23 million replacement inflators needed simply won’t be available within the next month, or even the next six months,” acknowledged NHTSA Office of Defects Investigations Director Frank Borris.

Some drivers will have to begin with an interim fix –- a newer version of the same defective inflator -– and follow-up with a permanent fix when parts become available. Three companies, Autoliv, Diacel and TRW, are ramping up inflator production to bolster Takata’s limited supply of replacements.

NHTSA is encouraging all consumers –- especially the 6 million drivers living in high-risk, high humidity areas along the Gulf Coast and in Florida and Puerto Rico, where the majority of the ruptures occurred -– to take recalls seriously.

“Don’t let this fall through the cracks,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said today, warning consumers not to buy airbags online.

In the high-risk region, nearly 30 percent of defective airbags have been remedied; the repair rate nationwide is around 23 percent.

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