WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) — Officials at Takata Corp. are preparing to recall an additional 35 million defective and dangerous airbag inflaters. U.S. regulators could announce the recall as early as Wednesday.
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Takata announced the recall of 28.8 million rupture-prone inflaters. The recall was estimated to affect roughly 24 million vehicles.
Officials aren’t sure how many additional vehicles would be affected by a second expanded recall, but most expect the number of vulnerable vehicles to double.
Last week’s recall, one of the largest in history, forced a dozen major automakers —including Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and others — to recall millions of vehicles.
The fault in the airbag inflaters lies in their use of ammonium nitrate. The propellant can become unstable over time, especially when exposed to moisture buildup, resulting in an explosion. Shrapnel expelled by exploding airbag inflaters made by Takata has been blamed for 11 deaths and dozens of injuries around the globe.
One man from Georgia bled to death last December on a South Carolina highway after a defective airbag inflater shot a piece of metal into his neck.
Takata, a Japanese company, now uses a drying agent to keep the ammonium nitrate stable, but millions of airbag inflaters without the additive remain on the streets.
“Takata is working with regulators and our auto maker customers to develop long-term, orderly solutions to these important safety issues,” a spokesman for Takatatold The Wall Street Journal.
Takata has already been fined $70 million by U.S. regulators and is facing an ongoing criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. If the recall grows, the penalties could steepen.
Even after the expected expansion, the recall won’t account for all the airbag inflaters that use the additive-free ammonium nitrate.
Some officials at Takata acknowledge that the recall may ultimately grow to 100 million airbags. If so, the recall could end up affecting one quarter of America’s 250 million vehicles.