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The scandal surrounding defective air bags made by Takata Corp. in American cars may be headed for court as the Japanese manufacturer defies U.S. demands for a nationwide recall.
In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) called for a recall of all U.S. automobiles with the potentially deadly air bags.
However, Takata has so far only agreed to replace drivers’ side airbag inflators in about 8 million cars sold in high-humidity areas of the U.S. such as Florida and other Gulf Coast states.
Takata argues that an expanded recall is up to automakers and that the NHTSA cannot support its claim that wider action is necessary, Bloomberg News explains.
Meanwhile, Mazda, Honda and other car makers have themselves taken up the NHTSA’s demand and recalled cars containing Takata airbags across the country, according to the New York Times.
Overall, more than 16 million vehicles worldwide have been recalled because of the air bags.
Takata air bags can violently explode when they deploy and send metal shards flying into the cabin, the Times explains. Five deaths, including four in the U.S., as well as dozens of injuries have been linked to the faulty airbags.
Affected air bags were installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2008, according to Consumer Reports. Cars affected (with links to their makers’ recall notices) include various models of:
Also, in November, NHTSA officials ordered Takata and all 10 of the vehicle manufacturers that use Takata air bag inflators to submit a detailed report and produce all related documents about completed, ongoing or planned testing of Takata inflators outside the current regional recall areas. The agency also required the manufacturer to provide documents and detailed information on the propellant used in its inflators.
NHTSA officials are now going over this cache of data. The agency is hiring an independent expert to conduct more air bag tests, Bloomberg reports.
The next public step by NHTSA would be to formally declare that it believes the air bags are defective. The NHTSA would need a court order to enforce a nationwide recall if Takata continues to resist.
Car owners concerned about their autos can check the U.S. government’s SaferCar.gov website to determine whether their car is affected by a current recall. A search requires the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), which can be found on the vehicle’s registration and insurance documents as well as on the dashboard under the lower driver-side corner of the windshield.
You should have been notified with instructions to contact a local dealership for repairs if your car has been recalled. However, because of the huge number of vehicles affected, your dealership may not have the parts required to repair your car. Toyota says its technicians will deactivate Takata airbags, but other dealerships may only put you on a waiting list.
If your car is affected and cannot be repaired, no one should sit in the front-passenger seat if that air bag is faulty. If the driver’s side air bag has been recalled, you should consider not driving the vehicle and seeking alternative transportation.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash that included the explosion of a Takata air bag, contact an attorney to learn more about your legal rights and the steps you can take to protect them.