Though it seems as if the Takata airbag recall has disappeared from the headlines, it certainly hasn't gone too far away. For instance, Volkswagen just added another 2,564 vehicles with potential exploding airbag housings.
Airbags, while having proven to be beneficial in preventing road deaths, have also been a thorn in the side of the industry and regulators. The devices have been prone to blowing up during a standard deployment. As they explode, the airbag inflator housing shatters, flinging shrapnel throughout the passenger compartment. Let’s look at some background on this. Here is more information about this recall.
The year 2015 was a big one for the auto industry. No, it wasn’t big as in “hooray, hooray,” as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had once again found its authoritative ruling voice. It was a time when the NHTSA came down hard on General Motors as it tried to hide a key snafu on its compacts. The agency also didn’t pull any punches as it fined Honda and Fiat Chrysler Autos for their slow reporting. And, it was the year when the agency told Takata to recall four of its major airbag lines because they tended to blow up on deployment.
Devices Do Their Jobs And Then Some
You would have expected them to explode when they deployed because that was what they were designed to do. The devices were designed to sense accidents of more than five mph. If they did, they were to deploy. All of this took place in milliseconds, and the bags deflated by the time you knew what had happened. But, there was a problem with Takata airbags. On deployment, a number of them fired with too much pressure---the result of airbag propellant becoming contaminated with moisture. Over time, the amount of deployment force grew a whole lot (researchers would call this almost exponentially).
In all of this, though, there was a problem. A climate of good old boy cronyism and super-company protectionism had grown up, as well. Indeed, many middle management types and senior engineers knew they had a problem with at least four of their lines of airbags. And they knew that the fuel they used was also problem-filled. Finally, there was a climate of secrecy---they would tell no one of the problems, even though people were being injured or killed.