The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has demanded Takata to submit documents and answer questions under oath over its use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant in its airbag inflators. The request gives rise to suggestions that NHTSA might be looking at ammonium nitrate as a possible cause of ruptured Takata inflators that have been tied to five deaths globally.
NHTSA demands were outlined in its Nov. 18 special order, which is equivalent to a subpoena. Takata has been used inexpensive ammonium nitrate as the gas-producing propellant to inflate airbags during a crash. Ammonium nitrate is also used in explosives and fertilizers and could become unstable when exposed to humidity and moisture.
NHTSA wants Takata to produce all documents that expressly or implicitly say that the chemical is too unstable to be used in airbag inflators.
NHTSA also wants Takata to provide a timeline detailing all instances since January 2000 when the chemical composition of its inflator propellant was changed -- including the changes made, the reasons for the changes, the personnel involved.
NHTSA likewise wants Takata to provide any studies or testing data regarding its airbag inflator propellant formulas. The special order is part of a probe into the inflators. Takata, NHTSA and carmakers are still trying to determine the root cause of the airbag ruptures. Failure to heed the order by Friday could mean a maximum $35 million fine.