Even if Takata Corp. increases the speed of production of replacement parts for faulty airbags in millions of recalled vehicles from 300,000 a month to 450,000 monthly, it would not be fast enough to cover the demand for those components. This was admitted by Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata's senior vice president for global quality assurance, in front of United States senators during a hearing by the US Senate Commerce Committee.
At the same hearing, David Friedman, deputy administrator of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that the upgrading a regional recall of cars with defective airbags into a national one would be a risky move.
Friedman told the committee that a national recall could divert replacement parts from where they are needed the most – regions with high humidity that could cause the airbags to rupture and shoot metal shards upon deployment.
At least five deaths are tied to the defective airbags, four of which were in the US. The hearing also uncovered a number of blind spots of regulators as well as the auto industry on the scope and urgency of the air bags' dangers.
The NHTSA and Takata, however, have yet to fully determine why the airbag parts are at risk. Friedman told the committee that NHTSA is already in contact with two other suppliers to see if they could produce the replacement parts that Takata could not provide given its production rate.
He was hit for NHTSA’s decision to allow carmakers to send out notices of "safety campaigns" instead of issuing formal recalls – a situation that have left customers confused over the severity of the problem.
According to Friedman, NHTSA would have more control over carmakers if the US Congress passed legislation that hikes the maximum allowable fine to punish uncooperative carmakers. Currently, NHTSA could only impose a maximum of $35 million in fines.