The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has drastically increased the number of vehicles and manufacturers affected by the airbag recall announced earlier this week. Initially affecting 4.6 million vehicles made by six manufacturers, the number is now 7.8 million and added on an additional four auto makers.
Recalled vehicles now include those made by: BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota. Airbag recalls began 18 months ago with certain manufacturers, but has been increasing in scope and numbers very recently. While all vehicle recalls should be taken seriously, recalls involving vehicle airbags are especially urgent.
Airbags are an integral part of vehicular safety systems. They deploy at a very high rate of speed, typically 150–250 miles per hour and front airbags are fully inflated in less than one-twentieth of a second. This alone can pose a danger to a driver or passenger if they are not properly restrained, are seated too close to the airbag, or have their hands or arms across the steering wheel or gripping the steering wheel too high. In this particular case airbags manufactured by Takata, the world’s largest airbag producer, were made with inflator devices that are susceptible to damage from ambient humidity. This damage causes degradation in the inflator which can rupture the airbag and send dangerous shrapnel into the faces of those in the front seats. Four deaths and 30 injuries have already been associated with these problems.
It is unclear what is really behind this expanding number of recalls. Initially, recalls were issued primarily in southern states and in territories like Guam and Puerto Rico. This was because those areas are generally considered to have higher sustained humidity levels, hence a higher incidence of malfunction. However, two of the deaths have occurred in states not included in that logic. This flawed line of thinking does not take into account local humidity issues, travelers, snowbirds and those that make car purchases out of state. According to the Center For Auto Safety, the recall could expand to over 25 million vehicles if it is issued nationwide. At this time it is unclear who will be bearing the brunt of the costs and if enough parts exist to repair all of the recalled vehicles. Dealerships are doing the repairs at no cost to owners but in cases where the parts are out of stock, owners are urged to either turn off the passenger airbag, or disallow anyone to sit in the front passenger seat until the recalled airbag has been replaced. Vehicle owners can check the recall status of their vehicle at their particular automaker’s website by entering their VIN number. Many people are suffering from “recall fatigue” but this is certainly one that requires urgent action.