The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to commence its recall of airbags with faulty Takata Corp. inflators on Dec. 1, 2014, or three weeks earlier than the Japanese supplier planned. “The consequences of these inflator failures are serious,” NHTSA’s deputy administrator, David Friedman, wrote to Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne.
He noted in the letter that metal fragments are shot towards occupants causing serious injury or death. According to NHTSA, Takata will start shipment of replacement parts to Chrysler on Dec. 1, and the carmaker should sent notices no later than that date.
Chrysler decided to recall 371,000 vehicles in June to replace the airbag inflators, but has no plans to send notices to vehicle owners until Dec. 19, when replacement parts are available, Scott Kunselman, the carmaker’s senior vice president and head of vehicle safety and regulatory compliance, said during a Senate hearing last week.
Friedman remarked that NHTSA has had to push Chrysler in previous instances to speed up production of parts and send notices out to consumers. He said during a Senate hearing on Nov. 20 that there is no reason for Chrysler to wait to notify vehicle owners until it already has the replacement parts.
A day prior, NHTSA urged for a nationwide recall of vehicles with possibly faulty airbags, after regional recalls covering nearly 8 million carmakers has led drivers uncertain about the safety of their own airbags. Takata, however, has said that a nationwide recall could risk lives since it could further worsen a current shortage of replacement parts.
The company has already been struggling to ramp up production under the regional recalls. Takata’s executive in charge of global quality assurance, Hiroshi Shimizu, said during the hearing that Takata is building over 300,000 parts a month and has plans to ramp up production to 450,000 in January.
Just this month, Ford has expanded its recall of Ranger pickup trucks – covering 2004 and 2005 models -- in the US to include more defective airbags from Takata. This followed a fatal accident in Malaysia that revealed a previously unknown glitch. Ford will also replace driver’s-side airbags in the affected model years, as per a statement by the NHTSA.
Under the expanded recall, both the front and passenger airbags in the Ford Ranger units will be returned to Takata for testing. Ford’s decision to expand the recall followed a review by NHTSA to determine which US cars were fitted with airbags similar to one in a Honda Motor Co. This year alone, 10 carmakers have recalled over 11 million vehicles in the US with the defective airbags.