Takata Expanding Recall Due to New Hazard with Airbag

Takata added another 2.7 million airbags to the largest recall in the automobile industry after the detection of another hazard during testing.

On Monday, company officials let the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration know that a group of its inflators for airbags, the ones that need calcium sulfate to stay dry, can, as with other versions rupture when the bags deploy, hurling shards of metal inside the vehicles.

Ford, Nissan and Mazda installed those inflators in their vehicles that were manufactured for the U.S. market between 2005 and 2012, according to the Japanese company. All the bags are located on the driver’s side.

This new recall adds to the effort that was expected previously to reach 70 million airbag inflators in more than 42 million vehicles.

The problems with Takata’s defective devices started during 2008 when Japan carmaker Honda recalled 4,000 of its vehicles that used technology supplied by Takata. Thus far, the U.S. safety agency said that close to 17 million airbags have already been replaced across the U.S.

The deaths of 17 people around the world including 12 in the U.S. are linked to inflators from Takata. On Monday, carmaker Honda said one person in Florida had died last year after an inflator made by Takata ruptured in an Accord during the attempted repair of the car using a hammer.

Takata and the U.S. safety agency said they were not aware of any ruptures that were related to the hazard prompting the most recent recall.

Exposure to temperature and moisture fluctuations can degrade the inflators’ propellant, that contains ammonium nitrate, a compound that is volatile but used to deploy the airbags.

The company has used different chemical agents to maintain its propellant dry in the devices over time, with some of the combinations showing greater propensity to fail than others, said federal regulators.

The most recent recall is just the first that involves inflators using calcium sulfate to keep dry. The inflator can combust in a manner that is over-aggressive potentially rupturing and causing much harm said a filing by Takata submitted to the U.S. highway safety administration.

The latest admission by Takata brought new criticism to the company throughout Washington. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said that the recall raises new serious questions about this threat in all of the ammonium nitrate based Takata airbags.

Nelson called upon regulators to determine quickly if all the remaining airbag inflators at Takata were safe.