GM will not disable air bags in Takata recall
Washington — – General Motors Co. will not follow Toyota Motor Corp.’s lead in disabling air bags in vehicles with recalled Takata air bag inflators.
GM spokesman Alan Adler said Thursday the Detroit automaker has parts on hand to fix about 17,000 Pontiac Vibes that Toyota produced for GM. If GM doesn’t have the parts in stock, it will give free loaners to owners, Adler said.
GM in June recalled 69,000 models of 2003-05 Pontiac Vibes and 2005 Saab 9-2X. Adler said urgent repairs apply to 17,000 Vibes in high-humidity areas identified by Toyota last week.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday told Japanese air bag manufacturer Takata it must answer detailed questions under oath about the recall of 7.8 million vehicles by 10 major automakers that use its air bags.
“We are compelling Takata to produce documents and answer questions under oath relevant to our ongoing investigation into defective air bags they have produced. We expect Takata’s full cooperation as we work to keep the American public safe,” said David Friedman, NHTSA Deputy Administrator.
Takata must provide documents by Dec. 1 or face fines of up to $7,000 per day. Earlier this week, Takata vowed to speed production of replacement parts after telling NHTSA in September it would only be able to build 1.47 million replacement parts by the end of February — far short of the total needed.
The new letter must detail the production schedule and whether other air bag manufacturers can help fill the gap. It carries the force of law.
The request seeks information about Takata air bag failures and company investigations. It seeks information about a March 2011 allegation by an employee at Takata’s plant in Mexico suggesting faulty welding may have been to blame.
Takata spokeperson Alby Berman said the company is cooperating with NHTSA. Takata officials met with NHTSA for more than two hours Thursday.
Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said “NHTSA is once again dealing with a safety problem that took years to recognize, despite multiple warning signs. It suggests the agency still doesn’t have an effective early warning system to detect these issues.”
NHTSA on Wednesday sent a letter to 10 automakers that have recalled 7.8 million vehicles, urging them to speed up repairs and testing. The bulk of the vehicles have been recalled by Honda Motor Co., which called back 5.1 million.
At least four deaths dating back to 2008 are linked to the problem in Hondas. More than 16 million vehicles with Takata air bags have been recalled since 2008 by 11 automakers because high humidity or production defects may cause them to malfunction in a crash, throwing potentially deadly shrapnel.
Last week, Toyota issued an urgent recall for 247,000 cars and trucks. It will disable passenger-side bags and post a warning on the glove box telling people not to sit there.
A Chrysler Group LLC recall announced in June covers 371,000 vehicles after a report of one injury. Spokesman Eric Mayne said repairs haven’t begun because the company is trying to understand the the problem. “We have not seen trends others have seen,” he said. “We are not disconnecting air bags.”
Chrysler is collecting inflators from recalled cars for testing and is offering Disney World tickets as incentives.
Ford Motor Co. said in June it would recall 58,000 vehicles. Spokeswoman Kelli Felker said Thursday the number increased to 85,004 and now includes the 2005-08 Mustang and 2004-05 Ranger. Ford began repairs this week.