A shortfall in replacement airbag inflator production from Japanese parts manufacturer Takata Corp will hamper carmakers’ efforts to recall the former’s defective airbags, despite a ramp up in capacity from 300,000 units to 450,000 scheduled to come online by January.

Producing enough parts to repair all 11 million cars recalled in the United States alone may take up to two years, even if manufacturers manage to avert having to issue a nationwide recall as demanded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Currently, manufacturers are only recalling certain cars in high-humidity areas in the US, a move which has drawn ire from lawmakers.

Looking to other suppliers like Autoliv and TRW may not be a feasible option, either, as it would take at least a year to develop and test components for a specific car from the ground up.


At a recent hearing into the recalls, US senators lambasted Takata for what was reportedly an “inconsistent and disorganised response” to the defective airbags, with one singling out the parts maker’s insistence on continued use of ammonium nitrate – which can become unstable when exposed to moisture – in the composition of the airbag propellant as being “very concerning.”

At the same hearing, a Honda executive has admitted that the company failed to adequately notify federal regulators over more than 1,700 incidents involving the exploding airbags, and was still unsure over the full extent of the defective inflators. However, he did say that the automaker was working on finding out and recall the affected vehicles as quickly as possible, and was willing to work with legislators and customers to do so.

Japan has stepped up its response as well, with the country’s transport ministry urging Takata directly to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter and share its findings. Such a call for action on a supplier is rare for a ministry that typically only deals with carmakers on such issues. It has also asked car companies to consider widening its existing recalls in the country in light of NHTSA’s recent demands.


Details regarding Takata’s defective airbag inflators – which can explode with excessive force, rupturing the casing and sending shards flying around the interior – remain murky more than 10 years after the issue first surfaced. This led to the aforementioned Senate hearing into the issue, while the company’s US arm also received a subpoena from the grand jury to produce documents related to the defects.

At least five deaths and 30 injuries have been attributed to the defective airbags. Earlier this month, it was revealed that a pregnant Malaysian woman was killed by inflator shrapnel in a collision involving her 2003 Honda City last July. Following the incident, Honda added another 170,000 cars to its ongoing recall, bringing of total number of cars affected worldwide to over 16 million.

The latest issue has been traced back to a conveyor at Takata’s now-defunct plant in LaGrange, Georgia, which had malfunctioned, exposing propellant tablets left on the belt to moisture.


Honda Malaysia recently issued a recall involving 15,734 units of the 2003-2004 Honda City, as well as the 2004 Honda Jazz to replace the driver’s side airbag. They join a separate recall announced last June, which involved the 2001-2003 Honda Stream, 2002-2003 Honda Jazz, 2003 Honda City and 2003 Honda Accord, this time for a front passenger airbag issue.

UMW Toyota has also recalled 18,700 units of the 2000-2003 Toyota Camry and Toyota Corolla Altis, while Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) recalled four units of the CBU first-generation Nissan X-Trail.