airbag

Over in the US, a congressional report authored by Senator Bill Nelson has revealed that at least four carmakers are still selling or have plans to sell new vehicles equipped with Takata-made, non-desiccated ammonium-nitrate inflators – the type of inflator that will be subject to recall by the end of 2018 (in the United States) and that has been responsible for several deaths and injuries.

According to NPR, Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen admitted they’ve been installing the airbags – which featured ammonium nitrate inflators without a chemical drying agent – in new vehicles. Five vehicles were named in the report – the 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2016 Volkswagen CC, 2016 Audi TT and 2017 Audi R8.

As a recap, ammonium nitrate serves as a propellant in the inflators. When subjected to moisture and heat over time, the propellant can be rendered unstable, and can cause the airbag inflators to explode with excessive force, spraying metal shrapnel inside the car. A drying agent, known as desiccant is meant to prevent the build-up of moisture.

According to the report, the Consent Order issued by the US Department of Transport’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) currently permit carmakers to continue selling new vehicles equipped with desiccated and non-desiccated Takata inflators.

Takata Honda NSX

Only if Takata is unable to prove that its airbag inflators are safe will the NHTSA issue an order requiring Takata to declare all desiccated ammonium-nitrate inflators as defective. Even so, the Amended Consent Order requires that all vehicles equipped with non-desiccated inflators be declared defective and recalled by the end of 2018.

The report also said that non-desiccated Takata inflators are still being produced and installed in recalled vehicles. The Amended Consent Order does not prohibit automakers from using replacement inflators manufactured by Takata, including non-desiccated inflators.

These replacement inflators are a temporary remedy that is, according to NHTSA, at least in the short term, safer than the old recalled inflators. All of these replacement inflators will eventually have to be recalled by December 31, 2019, according to NHTSA’s Amended Consent Order.

Finally, Nelson also points out that the recall completion rates for faulty Takata-made airbag inflators remains unacceptably low. Data in the report revealed that the nationwide recall completion rates for 11 individual automakers ranged from 0.04% to 39.5%. Various factors like the inability to contact vehicle owners, change of ownership, scrapping have been attributed to the results.