Ford is expanding its regional recall of faulty Takata driver’s-side airbag inflators to all 50 states. It is the third automaker, along with Honda and Mazda, to comply with a request from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that all driver’s-side airbags with specific Takata inflators be replaced regardless of regional location.
Ford is adding 447,310 U.S. vehicles to its spate of driver- and passenger-side airbag recalls, which now total 538,977. This latest recall—again, for the driver’s side only—involves all 2005–2008 Mustangs built at the Flat Rock plant from August 18, 2004 to June 25, 2007, plus all 2005–2006 GT supercars built from February 11, 2005 to January 30, 2006. The 2004–2005 Ranger pickup is included in two separate regional recalls since its Takata inflators, Ford said, were different than those in the GT and the Mustang.
Last month, NHTSA sent a letter to Takata requesting a nationwide recall of driver’s-side inflators after a driver of a 2007 Ford Mustang outside of the regional recall was injured by a two-inch metal shard. In the U.S., four people have died from the defective Takata inflators—all of them in Honda vehicles—and at least 139 injuries have been reported across all automakers. In full-page newspaper ads across the country today, Takata CEO Shigehisa Takata wrote that “we are building on existing efforts, led by our most senior engineers, to address any and all safety issues—but we recognize more must be done, now.”
While Takata stopped short of addressing a nationwide recall for driver’s-side inflators, he named Samuel K. Skinner, former transportation secretary under President Bush from 1989 to 1991, to lead the company’s new quality panel. He also reaffirmed a plan to allow competitive suppliers to produce replacement Takata parts and said he was “tripling” its testing capacity of returned inflators. During a House hearing early this month, Takata senior vice president Hiroshi Shimizu said the company was testing about 100 inflators per day and was currently on track to ship 350,000 replacements per month, with 450,000 by January.
At that time, Shimizu testified the company had tested roughly 4000 inflators recovered from cars in “high humidity” regions of the South and the Gulf Coast and said that all of the approximately 400 driver’s-side inflators had performed as designed. But of the remaining 3600 passenger-side inflators, Shimizu said that “less than 60” had ruptured—a considerably high failure rate in manufacturing. According to Reuters, Takata has new plans to audit all of its more than 100 suppliers and is now “extremely strict” on quality control. The company still has not found a root cause for the defects, but everything from botched chemicals, improper storage, high humidity, and even chewing gum have been cited.
Last week, Mazda expanded its driver’s-side-inflators recall nationwide to include 330,000 2004–2008 RX-8 coupes and 6 sedans, and the company joined Honda and Toyota in supporting an industry-led group that would speed up the testing of affected parts. Chrysler also added 139,115 cars to a regional passenger-side-inflators recall last week but thus far has not recalled any vehicles for the driver’s-side inflators.
According to Bloomberg, Takata—and many of the automakers—also faces more than 55 class-action lawsuits in the U.S. for owners alleging economic losses to their vehicles, although the cases have yet to be consolidated before a panel of federal judges. That may not happen until late January at the earliest.