The New York Times (12/12/14) reports that some carmakers that had previously recalled vehicles in certain high humidity areas have now expanded their recalls nationwide. Companies making such a move include Mazda, Ford and Chrysler. Worldwide, more than 16 million vehicles have been recalled due to the defective airbags, which can send metal flying through the cabin of a vehicle when the airbags deploy.
The expanded recall came after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warned in November that if carmakers did not recall vehicles nationwide, the administration would force them to do so. The NHTSA issued its warning after it learned that the driver of a 2007 Ford Mustang in North Carolina was injured in August by an airbag rupture. North Carolina had not been included in the initial recall regions.
Humidity was initially cited as a factor in the airbag ruptures because it could cause the propellant to explode, sending metal debris into the vehicle, potentially harming occupants. Police investigating the death of one victim injured by metal fragments initially thought she had been stabbed because of the nature of her injuries.
The airbag saga has continued to develop for months with critics claiming officials did not move quickly enough to expand the recall, customers taking their cars to be fixed only to find out there were not enough replacement parts and victims filing lawsuits alleging they were injured by the defective airbags.
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According to a different article in the New York Times (9/11/14), one of the earliest injuries linked to the defective airbags occurred in 2004, but the incident was deemed “an anomaly” so no recall was issued. Since that time, two deaths and 30 injuries have been linked to the defective airbags in Honda vehicles, with 139 reports of injuries in various vehicles linked to Takata airbags. Among the issues cited by the New York Times investigation as preventing a recall from occurring were confidential settlements with plaintiffs in lawsuits, preventing public acknowledgement of airbag issues.