The Center for Auto Safety, a watchdog group, sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urging the agency to broaden its probe into Takata Corp. possibly faulty airbags to include vehicles fitted with parts made through 2011. The Center for Auto Safety has also called for the NHTSA to determine whether replacements will be safe.
The watchdog group cited a crash in Orlando, Fla., in September involving a car that should have been fixed under a 2011 recall. The incident on Sept. 29, 2014, involved a Honda Accord driven by Hien Thi Tran, who died days later. Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes said Tran’s death was initially probed as a homicide since deep cuts on her neck were inconsistent with crash injuries.
Orange County Sheriff’s Department, however, blamed her death on the airbag, returning the probe to the highway patrol, Montes said. Montes told Automotive News on October 18 that the highway patrol investigation would to take at least a month. She recently said that the probe crash investigation is awaiting the review of the car by an airbag expert.
The possibility that replacement airbags might fail would further add complications to a recall of around 7.8 million cars in the United States involving Takata airbags. The airbags could possibly deploy with enough explosive force to turn the metal housing into shrapnel.
Officials from the agency and the supplier were to meet Thursday to talk about how the Japanese company is ramping up production of replacement parts and testing for faulty units. NHTSA has been urging vehicle owners to have their units fixed as soon as possible since the safety risk was more severe than initially assessed.
One of the affected carmakers, Toyota Motor Corp., has urged owners to not occupants sit in the front passenger seat until repairs are made. The carmaker added it may have the airbags deactivated if parts aren’t readily available.