NHTSA’s Still Looking for “Root Cause” of Tragic Takata Airbag Failures
In June of 2015, I noted that NHTSA’s new Administrator Rosekind refreshingly told the truth about “root cause”. Perhaps the most important revelation at yesterday’s hearing was the refreshing truth spoken by NHTSA’s new Administrator Dr. Mark R. Rosekind. “MARK ROSEKIND: Some factors appear to have a role, such as time and absolute humidity. The full story is not yet known and a definitive root cause has not been identified. In my recent experience as an NTSB board member and a veteran of many major transportation investigations, it may be that there is no single root cause, or the root cause may never be known.” Seehttp://www.npr.org/2015/06/02/411533526/questions-remain-about-airbag-recall-after-takata-testifies-before-house
“Rosemary Shahan, the founder of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, said that regulators needed to be more forthcoming with which other cars might be at risk and that automakers needed to be more aggressive in fixing the cars.
“The people who are driving in those cars deserve to know,” Ms. Shahan said.
Although the root cause of the defect is still unknown, regulators have focused on the airbags’ propellant, which contains ammonium nitrate, a compound that breaks down over time or when it is exposed to moisture. When that happens, the ammonium nitrate can combust violently, causing the propellant’s metal casing, called an inflater, to overpressurize and rupture.
Regulators have said that Takata must prove that ammonium nitrate, which is more commonly used in large-scale applications like mining, is safe to use or it will order all airbags containing that compound to be recalled. Takata, the only major airbag manufacturer to use the ammonium nitrate propellant, has said it is safe when properly treated with a stabilizing compound.
But for now, there is no blanket recall, which Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for N.H.T.S.A. said could eventually affect “tens of millions” of additional vehicles.
“Many millions of these vehicles are relatively new,” Mr. Trowbridge said, “and given what we know about the role of age in degrading the ammonium nitrate propellant, are unlikely to present a rupture risk for some years.”
Mr. Trowbridge noted that the agency had prioritized the recalls — which will take years to finish — to account for models and geographic regions that pose a higher risk.
“If N.H.T.S.A. believes a vehicle presents an unreasonable risk to safety, the agency would seek a recall,” he said.” See
How many more tragedies will it take?