Following on from my last update, I read the other day that Takata, who are at the centre of the airbag recall, would be changing the propellant in their inflators. This was not quite true, they will still be using ammonium nitrate but will change the design of the inflator to make it safer when used. They have redesigned the drivers airbag, presumably because it is closer to the body than the passenger ones – which can be switched off in US cars. This is an interesting topic – Takata say that they are still using this propellant, however nearly every article I have read says that the new inflators have been purchased from another parts maker and they use a different propellant!
Interestingly, back in 2008 the company quietly changed the propellant to the cheaper mix and were the only airbag company to do so. They have always denied that the propellant was an issue in the recall. So the new inflators will be retrofitted to the cars that have already been fixed, meaning that owners will have to take their cars in again for more recall work.
The resolution to the problem has centred on two areas: one is to “stabilise” the ammonium nitrate compound to stop the chemical reaction (aka the bigger explosion) when moisture gets in and the other is to redesign the seals to prevent the degradation of the seals over time that allows the moisture to get in. Most of the incidents that prompted the recall were in humid climates. Investigators think that a cleaning agent used in the manufacturing process of the canisters may cause a gradation of the glue over time. These canisters are made in Canada and Japan by a third party companies who declined to be interviewed by industry media folk.
In another move by Takata, they have appointed the executive in charge of Quality Assurance, Hiroshi Shimizu, to the board, replacing a former President of the company whose position expires in a few months. This will mean that QA will now become a board focus and that can only be a positive move.
Earlier this month the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) announced that it was investigating another company related to airbag injuries. ARC makes inflators for other companies and the NHTSA has received several complaints about their products. This has meant that 420,000 Chryslers and 70,000 Kias have also been recalled to have their airbags replaced too. ARC have declined to comment on whether they were also using ammonium nitrate in their products which are then built into safety devices by Delphi and Key Safety Systems.
Two legal cases have been brought against the companies after drivers were injured in a Chrysler and a Kia by an exploding airbag that had a design or manufacturing fault in it.
The recall issue is also hampered by the owners and a report in Forbes suggested that half of all owners actually bothered to take their cars in for the recall and that 60% of owners do not keep up to date with recall issues for their vehicle. 77% of the recorded accident damage that started the recall was on vehicles that had been recalled in recent years but the owner had ignored the letter.