News: Takata Airbag recall

GRtak

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I thought there was already a thread on this, but I could not find it.

Airbag Maker Takata Saw and Hid Risk in 2004, Former Workers Say


Alarmed by a report a decade ago that one of its airbags had ruptured and spewed metal debris at a driver in Alabama, the Japanese manufacturer Takata secretly conducted tests on 50 airbags it retrieved from scrapyards, according to two former employees involved in the tests, one of whom was a senior member of its testing lab.

The steel inflaters in two of the airbags cracked during the tests, a condition that can lead to rupture, the former employees said. The result was so startling that engineers began designing possible fixes in preparation for a recall, the former employees said.

But instead of alerting federal safety regulators to the possible danger, Takata executives discounted the results and ordered the lab technicians to delete the testing data from their computers and dispose of the airbag inflaters in the trash, they said.


The secret tests, which have not been previously disclosed, were performed after normal work hours and on weekends and holidays during summer 2004 at Takata?s American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., the former employees said

That was four years before Takata, in regulatory filings, says that it first tested the problematic airbags. The results from the later tests led to the first recall over airbag rupture risks in November 2008.

Today, 11 automakers have recalled more than 14 million vehicles worldwide because of the rupture risks. Four deaths have been tied to the defect, which can cause the airbag?s steel canister to crack and explode into pieces when the device deploys in a crash. The airbags are inflated by means of a propellant, based on a common compound used in fertilizer, that is encased in the canister, which together are known as the inflater.

Complaints received by regulators about various automakers blame Takata airbags for at least 139 injuries, including 37 people who reported airbags that ruptured or spewed metal or chemicals. Takata is one of the world?s largest suppliers of airbags, accounting for about one-fifth of the global market.

The former Takata employees, who between them had four decades of experience at the company, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of continuing ties to Takata. They said they were speaking up because of concerns that their former employer was not being forthright about the defective airbags.

?All the testing was hush-hush,? one former employee said. ?Then one day, it was, ?Pack it all up, shut the whole thing down.? It was not standard procedure.?

A spokesman for Takata, Alby Berman, declined to comment on the disclosure of the testing.


In the past, a spokesman for Honda said it was assured by Takata in 2004 that the episode in Alabama, which involved a 2002 Honda Accord, was an anomaly.

On Thursday, a Honda spokesman, Chris Martin, said in a statement, ?This is a serious allegation about actions taken by Takata. It is our intention to determine whether anyone at Honda has any evidence that these claims are credible.?

Separately, materials reviewed by The New York Times cast doubt on Takata?s claims to federal regulators that it had resolved manufacturing and quality control problems with its airbag propellant in the early 2000s. Takata has said, in regulatory filings, that by November 2002, it had ensured that there was ?proper handling? of the propellants at a factory in Moses Lake, Wash., where it had traced problems with the rupturing airbags.

Continue reading the main story

But as recently as April 2009, Takata engineers scrambled to repair a flaw in a machine at another factory in Monclova, Mexico, that made the airbag propellant more volatile, according to materials from a company presentation given that year.

Two former quality-control managers at the company?s main distribution center in Texas, moreover, described in interviews a series of quality problems that arose as the company raced to meet a surge in demand for its airbags.

The Times reviewed internal Takata documents, emails, photos, videos and regulatory filings. Emails show workers raising concerns that airbag units were being delivered to automakers wet or damaged because of transportation mishaps. Closed-circuit television footage shows forklifts dropping stacks of the airbag units.

The dropped airbags were not always properly inspected for damage, especially in the early 2000s, according to the former quality-control managers who said they later pushed for stricter controls at the facility. The two spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution.

Takata is facing renewed scrutiny for its handling of the defective airbags, which The Times reported in September had been the subject of a short-lived investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that was closed in 2010 without any enforcement action. The federal agency has now reopened its investigation into Takata, a House committee has asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct its own investigation, and federal prosecutors in Manhattan have also taken an interest.

?Claims such as these have raised additional concerns about Takata?s handling of airbag issues and are one of the reasons we?re compelling them to produce documents and answer questions, under oath,? the highway safety agency said.

?Takata will continue to fully cooperate with the government investigation as we also support the needs of our customers,? Mr. Berman, the spokesman, said.

In Tokyo on Thursday, the company?s chief financial officer apologized broadly for the problems caused by the defective airbags, while the company announced that legal uncertainty and rising recall costs would result in a larger-than-expected quarterly loss.

?We don?t know at this point how things will play out,? said Yoichiro Nomura, the chief financial officer. The most recent death linked to the airbags involved an accident in a suburban Los Angeles parking lot last year. Hai Ming Xu, 47, was killed by an airbag that deployed explosively in his 2002 Acura TL.
Far more at the link
 

rickhamilton620

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I'm surprised this thread hasn't gotten more attention. Takata and various automakers have been called to the carpet (aka..forced march to Washington DC) to explain what's going on and NHTSA is on the verge of forcing a nationwide recall. It's been fascinating seeing how this coverup on Takata's part has come to be.

It's also a bit unnerving that I'm driving a car that is likely equipped with Takata airbags but is 2 years before the alleged defective date range started with a SRS airbag light on. *gulp*

That'll be taken into the dealer as soon as possible, needless to say.

I'm hoping C-Span will cover the hearing on this. The GM one was interesting.

EDIT: they will - http://www.c-span.org/video/?322852-1/hearing-takata-airbag-defects
 
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Spectre

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I'm surprised this thread hasn't gotten more attention. Takata and various automakers have been called to the carpet (aka..forced march to Washington DC) to explain what's going on and NHTSA is on the verge of forcing a nationwide recall. It's been fascinating seeing how this coverup on Takata's part has come to be.

It's also a bit unnerving that I'm driving a car that is likely equipped with Takata airbags but is 2 years before the alleged defective date range started with a SRS airbag light on. *gulp*

That'll be taken into the dealer as soon as possible, needless to say.

I'm hoping C-Span will cover the hearing on this. The GM one was interesting.

EDIT: they will - http://www.c-span.org/video/?322852-1/hearing-takata-airbag-defects
Pull the airbag out, disconnect the electrical connectors, put it back. It already doesn't work properly (SRS light on means they won't deploy properly) you might as well make sure it can't pretend it's a grenade with the pin pulled by disconnecting power from it.
 

NecroJoe

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Is it legal to disconnect an airbag if the car was sold with it as original equipment (Kinda like...if your car didn't come with seatbelts, you can install and remove them, but not if your car came with them from the factory)?
 

Spectre

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Airbag is a state inspection item; most states do not inspect for airbags because there actually are good reasons to disable them - short or slight drivers, pregnant drivers, airbag beyond expiration date. However, if you go to sell a vehicle with disabled airbags, you should either re-enable them or have the buyer sign a waiver explaining that they know the airbags are not functioning or are missing.

I do not know of any Federal law that says you must have functioning airbags or even airbags at all after the vehicle is sold to the first buyer. I *think* NY and CA are the only states with any legislation requiring it, but I'm not very sure about NY. CA doesn't do state safety inspections so other than letting cops stack up charges if they pull you over I don't see the point of their law. Well, other than the politicians being seen as 'Doing Something' and trying to justify their continued employment.
 
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jack_christie

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After shutting down the US factory, the Mexican one blowing up, the stock getting contaminated, causing the unstable airbags, they have now decided to move some production to Germany

BMW says its Takata inflator work moving from Mexico to Germany
http://europe.autonews.com/article/20141119/COPY/311199900/bmw-says-takata-inflator-work-is-moving-to-germany-from-mexico

Takata Executive Testifies About Airbags in Senate Hearing
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/21/business/takata-airbags-senate-hearing.html?rref=business

Switch to Cheaper Airbag Propellant Is at Center of Crisis

by 2001 Takata had switched to an alternative formula, ammonium nitrate, and started sending the airbags to automakers, including Honda.

?It shouldn?t be used in airbags,? said Paul Worsey, an expert in explosives engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The compound, he said, is more suitable for large demolitions in mining and construction.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/20/business/takatas-switch-to-cheaper-airbag-propellant-is-at-center-of-crisis.html?ref=business
 
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