Takata said in documents filed with the safety agency that it tested the inflators returned from Nissan and Ford vehicles which use calcium sulfate as a drying agent. Although none of the inflators actually ruptured, some showed a pattern of deterioration in the ammonium nitrate propellant over time “that is understood to predict a future risk of inflator rupture.”
NHTSA said in a statement that not all Takata inflators with a desiccant are being recalled. Takata used different drying agents in its other inflators, the agency said.
Nissan said the new recall affects just over 515,000 Versa subcompact hatchback and sedans from the 2007 through 2012 model years. Mazda said its recall covers about 6,000 B-Series trucks from 2007 through 2009. Ford, which has the most vehicles involved in the latest recall, is reviewing the information and will file a list of models within the time required by law.
The latest recall raises doubts about the safety of other Takata Corp. inflators that use ammonium nitrate and drying agents. The doubts over Takata’s propellant raise questions of whether the recalls should be limited to humid regions.
For as far back as 2014 NHTSA said that it would urge automakers to expand recalls of certain drivers’ side airbags that had previously been limited to states and territories with high humidity. The company has now agreed to recall all original equipment inflators without a drying agent in phases by the end of 2018. NHTSA gave Takata until the end of 2019 to prove that inflators with the drying agents are safe, or they must be recalled as well.
Takata pleaded guilty to criminal charges in January 2017 and agreed to pay a $1 billion fine related to its faulty airbag inflator systems. After filing for bankruptcy protection in June, it is selling assets to be able to continue manufacturing components.
The company has said that it expects to fund the airbag repairs through the asset sale and that it has secured financing to ensure it can continue operations, including dealing with the defective inflators, while it restructures.
NHTSA said Takata has assured the agency that it will keep making inflator parts available.
“This recall now raises serious questions about the threat posed by all of Takata’s ammonium-nitrate-based airbags,” Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, said in a statement. “If even more are found to be defective, it will take us from the biggest recall ever to something that could become mind-boggling.”
The agency is urging people whose inflators have been recalled to get them replaced as soon as possible. To find out if your car or truck is part of the recall, go to nhtsa.gov/recalls or airbagrecall.com and key in the 17-digit vehicle identification number.