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NHTSA Allows GM to Delay Takata Airbag Recall in Effort to Prove Airbags Are “Safe”

When consumers buy a new car, truck, van, or SUV they expect to take into their possession a safe vehicle that will not expose its passengers to needless harm or danger. If a vehicle does happen to include serious safety defects that can produce injury or death. Then consumers would demand that manufacturers repair the problems as quickly as possible.  

Unfortunately, this ideal recall repair scenario was but a pipe dream when it comes to recent recall history. The General Motors ignition switch defect festered and grew as the company missed warning signs for more than a decade before bursting into the public awareness. Similarly, the Takata airbag inflator defect was also allowed to develop for a decade or more before regulators and safety watchdogs were able to get Takata to admit that there was a problem.

Thus, news that NHTSA is poised to grant GM an extension of time to determine whether the defective Takata airbags are “safe.” This news seems to harken back to the deferential approach employed by National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that allowed major defects like these to develop. The timing of the announcement just days before the long weekend and Thanksgiving holiday also does not present a favorable first impression regarding this decision.

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NHTSA to Grant More Time for Takata Airbag Tests

Early this year, GM finally agreed to replace the airbag inflators in more than 2.5 million of its vehicles. This common-sense concession, unfortunately, required significantly more pressure and effort by regulators and safety watchdogs than should have been required. Even at the time of the recall announcement, GM seemed to believe that its Takata-produced airbags were safe because of differences in the inflators.

However, similar inflators have directly contributed to at least 16 deaths and numerous injuries. The defective inflators utilize ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion when deploying the airbag. However, exposure to moisture and humidity can trigger a phase change in the chemical that results in unpredictable ballistics. Inflators impacted by humidity and moisture can deploy with excessive force leading to life-altering injuries or death. The defect is believed to get worse over time. Vehicles operated in high-humidity climates are particularly at risk of developing this problem.

GM has not indicated what exactly is different about these airbags that minimize or eliminates the inflator defect. However, use of a different propellant or improved inflator integrity could contribute to a reduced prevalence of this defect. However, GM has stated that its testing indicates that its airbags should be “safe” for at least three-and-a-half more years.

The company has a strong financial motivation to avoid full implementation of this recall. In all, nearly 7 million GM cars and trucks are covered by the Takata airbag recall. If fully implemented, recall costs for GM could cost the company just shy of $900 million. Consult a Pennsylvania auto defect lawyer for help if you were injured.

Additional Testing Has Already Delayed Recall Implementation Meaning Defective Vehicles will be on the Road Longer

GM’s request for additional time to test whether these airbags are safe means that the recall process has already been delayed. NHTSA’s grant of additional time to conduct these studies now means that the relevant recall will not go into effect until Aug. 31, 2017. If GM is able to provide sufficient evidence of safety, the recall would be canceled. However, it is unclear how this would function because, to date, GM has seemed to only indicate that airbags would be safe for a longer period of time and not that they would be safe indefinitely.

What this means is that unrepaired and potentially defective vehicles will be on our nation’s highways and roads for more miles. As the furor and media coverage of the Takata airbag defect continues to wind down, the likelihood that vehicle owners will seek repair decreases. While few recall campaigns are ever 100 percent effective in repairing all defective vehicles, we should strive for comprehensive recalls. As the initial public awareness of the issue grows more remote, the likelihood of seeking repair decreases. As vehicles change hands and a second or third owner takes the wheel, the likelihood of completing the recall repair also drops.

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Injured by a Defective Car or Truck and Seeking a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you or a loved one have suffered a serious, life-altering injury or death due to a vehicle defect, a Takata exploding airbag accident injury attorney of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to fight for you. For more than three decades we have stood for the principle that profits should never come before safety. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call our law firm at (215) 709-6940 today.

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