After refusing to declare its airbags defective for the past year and racking up $1.2 million in fines, Takata Corp. has given in to pressure from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and agreed to recall 33.8 million defective airbags. It is the largest auto recall in U.S. history.
If the ammonium nitrate that inflates Takata’s airbags explodes with too much force, it can cause the airbags to blow apart, sending shrapnel into the passenger compartment. So far, the defective airbags have claimed at least six lives and injured 100 people. For the past year, Takata has refused to declare the airbags defective, even questioning the NHTSA’s authority to order the company to launch a recall. On February 20, the NHTSA began fining the company $14,000 a day. As of Tuesday, when Takata finally agreed to cooperate with safety regulators, the company had racked up $1.2 million in fines. Other civil fines are still possible, according to The Associated Press (AP).
The agreement adds more than 18 million airbags to the existing recalls. A recall of passenger-side airbags initially affected only vehicles in high-humidity states along the Gulf Coast, but it was eventually expanded nationwide by 10.2 million vehicles. A nationwide recall of driver’s side airbags was expanded to include 7.9 million more vehicles, AP reported.
“We know that owners are worried about their safety and the safety of their families,” said Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as he announced the agreement. “This is probably the most complex consumer safety recall in U.S. history.”
Products must be reformulated or removed from the market if they are not shown to be safe and effective by 2018. The newly requested studies and requirements may cost companies between $64 million and $90 million, according to an FDA estimate. The FDA emphasized that healthcare workers should continue to use these products in the meantime, as they are vital to preventing infections in a health care setting.
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