2 U.S. senators urge recall of all Takata inflators

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Two U.S. senators on Thursday urged automakers to recall all vehicles with Takata air bags after The Detroit News reported Monday that a side air bag ruptured on a 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan in June.

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., called for recalls of all vehicles with Takata air bags and urged Takata “to immediately make public, on an ongoing basis, any and all data related to the testing of Takata’s air bags, so that it can be reviewed by independent experts and analysts.” They asked for a response from Takata Vice President Kevin Kennedy by Sept. 3.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday it was investigating the failed air bag in the VW.

Defective Takata air bags are linked to least eight deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries. Takata in May declared air bag inflators defective in 33.8 million vehicles produced by 11 automakers, sparking the largest U.S. auto recall in history.

The senators wrote to Takata: “As new reports surface of explosions in the latest models of Takata air bags, we write to express our deep concern over the obfuscation and delay that your company has engaged in while searching for a root cause of these defects.”

The letter continued: “In light of the most recent incident, which did not occur in one of the regions originally designated as ‘high humidity,’ and which involved a 2015 vehicle not currently subject to recall, we urge you to voluntarily recall all vehicles containing Takata air bags.”

Takata spokesman Jared Levy said Thursday the auto supplier still believes the malfunction “is unrelated to the previous recalls, and are cooperating closely with NHTSA and the vehicle manufacturer. Driver safety is our top priority, and we have dedicated tremendous resources to testing and researching returned inflators, including retaining leading experts around the world.”

VW declined declined to comment on the senators’ request. On Monday, spokesman Mark Gillies said the automaker is working to investigate the issue with Takata. He said the incident occurred after the driver hit a deer, and that the driver did not seek medical attention.

The automaker disclosed the incident to NHTSA on July 15. Gillies said Monday he did not know how many vehicles have Takata air bags, and said the company had “no comment” as to why its air bags are not part of the wider Takata recalls.

VW told The News earlier this year that it was not part of the Takata air bag recall of up to 33.8 million vehicles by 11 automakers. Bloomberg News reported this week that VW had used Takata inflators in about 890,000 vehicles; VW, along with Tesla Motors Inc., were the only two automakers not to recall vehicles with Takata bags.

The rupture of a side curtain air bag came soon after the Tiguan was built, and is not similar to other incidents that involved prolonged exposure to high humidity. The inflator can explode when activated, throwing shrapnel at drivers and passengers.