Report: Automakers Knew of Takata Airbag Inflator Risks in Late ‘90s
The New York Times today published an extensive report regarding the Takata airbag crisis with claims that General Motors received warning about the dangerous airbag inflator more than a decade ago, but put them in cars anyway.
The report provides a detailed timeline that led to GM’s decision to use the defective Takata airbag inflators that could explode and hurl shrapnel throughout the cabin, potentially injuring or killing passengers. The recall involves over 60 million airbags and is linked to at least 14 deaths.
According to the report, Takata’s airbag division, hampered with financial trouble during the late 1990s and early 2000s, developed cheaper airbag inflators using an ammonium nitrate compound. Takata approached GM with the inflator, which was approximately 30 percent cheaper than the one the automaker had been sourcing from its supplier Autoliv. The Times estimates the savings totaled a few dollars per inflator. GM told Autoliv it would switch to Takata if it couldn’t provide a competitive alternative. After researching and testing the Takata unit, Autoliv decided it could not compete and deemed the inflator “dangerously volatile.” Autoliv scientists warned GM about its findings, but the automaker opted to use Takata’s risky inflators anyway, according to the report.
A GM spokesman told The Times that it was “not appropriate for us to comment” on the aforementioned discussions because they “occurred two decades ago between old G.M. and a supplier.”
The report points out Autoliv warned other automakers as well, including Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota — all of whom also installed Takata inflators in vehicles that are included in the massive recall. Additionally, most of the deaths attributed to the inflator have been linked to Honda vehicles. Honda recently released the results of an audit, which suggests Takata manipulated test data provided to the automaker.
Still, the report casts doubt on automakers claiming they were unaware of the Takata inflators’ dangerous defect prior to the recall. Takata has received the brunt of the punishment, including a $200 million fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the largest civil penalty ever issued by the administration.
Read the full report here for more details.
Source: The New York Times
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