Monday, August 29, 2016
Revelations on the front page of the New York Times point to an automotive industry that was aware of extreme safety flaws in cheaper airbags made by Takata Corp. as early as the late 1990s. The story raises doubt over the enforceability of product specifications largely agreed by on by the industry itself, with little regulatory oversight, citing sources connected to General Motors’ decision to switch airbag suppliers and former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook. The airbags at the center of the Takata recalls have killed and injured over 100 people and led to the largest auto safety recall in US history.
The New York Times (8/26, A1, Tabuchi, Subscription Publication, 13.29M) reports that “in the late 1990s” GM first asked its then airbag supplier, Autoliv, “to match the cheaper design” of airbags made by Takata “or risk losing the automaker’s business.” Autoliv tests, however, overwhelmingly concluded that the lifesaving devices transformed into shrapnel bombs in certain climate conditions. Moreover, the United States Council on Automotive Research, an industry consortium that sets design and performance specifications, updated its airbag guidance reflecting the accepted dangers of using ammonium nitrate inflaters in high-humidity environments. “The problem,” the Times reports, “is that no one enforced the specifications,” a fact that “points to the self-regulatory nature of automotive manufacturing.” Another story for the New York Times (8/26, Subscription Publication, 13.29M) reports on what car owners can do if their vehicle is affected by the Takata recall.
Road and Track (8/26, Woodard, 2.66M) reports on the Times story, pointing out GM’s argument “that, among approximately 44,000 crashes where Takata-sourced airbags deployed, not one inflator has ruptured.”
Motor Trend (8/26, Ayapana, 2.63M) reports the Times story “provides a detailed timeline that led to GM’s decision to use the defective Takata airbag inflators that could explode and hurl shrapnel throughout the cabin.” Motor Trend observes that the Times story also “points out Autoliv warned other automakers as well, including Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota — all of whom also installed Takata inflators in vehicles that are included in the massive recall.”