GM says Takata air bag fix could cost $870M

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. says it could cost $870 million if it has to replace 6.8 million Takata air bags in full-size trucks and SUVs.

The Detroit automaker said it believes the inflators in its vehicles are safe, but if it has to repair them, the company expects to spend up to $320 million on 2.5 million full-size trucks and SUVs in high humidity areas that were preliminarily recalled in May and June, according to a regulatory filing Thursday.

The company said it would cost another $550 million to fix inflators in up to 4.3 million more pickups and SUVs that would be covered under future Takata recalls through December 2019 as part of an amended consent order between the supplier and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

GM said it hopes to prove to NHTSA there is no reason to fix the inflators because the company does not believe they have a safety defect. The company has until September to do so.

“We presently believe that the results of further testing and analysis will demonstrate that the vehicles do not present an unreasonable risk to safety and that no repair will ultimately be required,” GM said in the filing.

The carmaker said its analysis and data show the inflators in the GM vehicles are “currently performing as designed, show no significant signs of propellant degradation and, therefore, will not pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety through 2019, if at all, given the unique vehicle platform and design characteristics of the vehicles and the differences in the air bag inflators in those vehicles.”

GM says its vehicles’ inflator designs have better venting, that they are packaged in the instrument panel to minimize exposure to moisture and that solar-absorbing windshields and side glass minimize interior temperatures.

NHTSA said the vehicles, including certain Cadillac Escalades and Chevrolet Silverado and GM pickups, have Takata air bag inflators that could rupture because of propellant that can degrade after the vehicles have been exposed to long-term humidity and repeated hot-and-cold cycles. If an inflator ruptures, it can throw metal shards that can kill or injure drivers and passengers. Shrapnel from exploding Takata inflators has been linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries globally.

NHTSA previously said GM would need to recall the vehicles, and on Thursday stood behind its statement.

“The science clearly shows that these inflators become unsafe over time, faster when exposed to humidity and variations of temperature. The recall schedule ensures the inflators will be recalled and replaced before they become dangerous, giving vehicle owners sufficient time to have them replaced before they pose a danger to vehicle occupants,” the agency said.

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