Since Takata has decided not to take the lead concerning potential issues with its airbag inflators, the automakers have. Perhaps that’s unsurprising, since it’s the automakers, not Takata, that will take a beating on the dealership floor if consumers decide its models are a health hazards. The Detroit News reports that Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru met in a hotel conference room near the Detroit Metropolitan Airport last week to sort out a way to understand the technical issues involved.
So far, faulty airbag inflators have been ruled the cause of five deaths and 50 injuries around the world, but neither Takata nor investigators understands exactly why the inflators are malfunctioning. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently asked Takata to issue a national recall, Takata declined, citing a minuscule failure rate and the fact that it’s still investigating the issue. Toyota and Honda then made an industry-wide appeal for “a coordinated, comprehensive testing program” that would pinpoint the problem inflators and get them replaced, and that’s what the Detroit meeting was about.
Numerous issues, however, will make this a long row to hoe: simply getting the parts to replace the nearly 20 million inflators in cars recalled around the world so far – even working with other suppliers – will take a years, but more importantly, no one knows if the replacement inflators currently being installed will suffer the same issue. Answers will hopefully come quickly with Takata, the ten automakers and NHTSA all independently investigating the problem.