The New York Times (1/30/16) reports that Joel Knight was killed in December 2015, after his truck hit a cow on a highway. Although the accident was fairly minor, Knight bled to death thanks to shrapnel from the airbag in his Ford Ranger. That shrapnel hit Knight with enough force for investigators to consider he might have been shot. Ann Knight, Joel’s widow, said he did not know his airbag was made by Takata.
In fact, the New York Times reports, there could be as many as tens of millions of people who drive vehicles with Takata airbags that have either not been repaired or not even been recalled. As many as 54 million ammonium nitrate inflaters that are blamed for the airbag problems have reportedly been sold since 2000, with about 28 million inflaters being recalled. Of those, only 30 percent have undergone repairs. The remainder of the inflaters have not been recalled, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declining to recall all Takata airbags that contain the ammonium nitrate inflates.
Those drivers who take their car to have the airbags repaired could face lengthy delays before their vehicles are serviced. Complaints have been filed with various regulatory organizations, including consumer affairs groups that consumers have waited months for repairs while being told their vehicles are safe to drive.
Meanwhile, Takata has come under fire for changing test data. Among e-mails obtained by the New York Times (1/4/16) was reportedly one from a Takata airbag engineer that said “Happy Manipulating!!!” Takata has said the e-mails concern formatting of data.
Carmakers are also under fire for their delays in announcing recalls. Despite an airbag rupture as early as 2004, the first recalls were not issued until 2008, and it took until 2014 until more widespread recalls were announced. So far, almost 20 million vehicles have been recalled.
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reportedly took Fiat Chrysler to task for failing to notify customers of the problems, delaying distribution of repair parts and failing to come up with proper fixes for the defect.
The fine was a new record for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Prior to handing out this fine, US regulators handed Honda Motor Co. a $70 million fine for its actions related to Takata Corp. airbag recalls.