Any hope that disgraced airbag manufacturer Takata might have had of an easing of pressure by lawmakers and regulators to see its airbag recall through evaporated recently when deadlines to complete the monumental task were actually moved up.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an order last month that sets new, accelerated deadlines for when replacement airbag systems must be available to auto manufacturers. It also increased the responsibility of auto manufacturers to report when they have enough product in their supply chains to successfully replace the airbags in recalled vehicles.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made the administration’s stance very clear. “The Department of Transportation is maintaining its aggressive oversight of the efforts to recall Takata air bags as quickly as possible,” he said. “The amended order will speed up the availability of replacement air bags, and continues to prioritize the highest risk vehicles to protect the traveling public.”
In June of last year, the number of vehicles in the U.S. recalled for carrying affected Takata airbags doubled from its previous 17 million to some 34 million cars, trucks, and vans across a wide variety of manufacturers. Present day, that number has grown to 46 million, however by the time the recall is fully executed, additional Takata inflators will need to be recalled. In some cases, replacement inflators will themselves need to be replaced, putting the total number of replacement Takata inflators – in the U.S. alone – at close to 70 million units. Globally, that number approaches 100 million vehicles.
As of December of last year, automakers reported completed recall repairs on just 12.5 million Takata inflator units.
Many expected Takata to declare bankruptcy or to dissolve in some other way that would save it from fulfilling its obligations under the recall orders. Those fears were allayed in November when, in a separate action, the NHTSA declared that automakers, and not Takata, bore “ultimate responsibility” for seeing the recall through.
The scandal has all but destroyed Takata as rumors swirled of the company seeking and evaluating offers to buy it out. The Takada family also ended its 80-year run at the helm of the company as Shigehisa Takada announced his intention to resign from the company last year, although investors would have likely forced his removal without such a resignation.
Either way, regardless of who might buy the company or who is leading it, it is clear that Takata will bear the brunt of this scandal for years to come; whether it wants to or not.