Will Takata Airbags Drive The Biggest Automotive Recall Ever?
A widespread Takata Corporation airbag recall was issued after exploding airbags were reported as injuring and even killing at least four unsuspecting drivers, and the scope of the recall continues to grow.
As of now, nearly 12 million automobiles from a wide range of manufacturers are included in the recall. As Takata and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) scramble to try to figure out what needs to happen to keep motorists safe, many drivers remain unaware that they are affected.
Largest Automotive Recall Ever?
Strictly by the numbers, the Takata recall is not yet the largest automotive recall in history, but Takata airbags are found in so many different car models that the true scale of the problem is not fully known.
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Already, the 12 million automobiles that are currently included make this the third largest automobile recall ever. The 2014 General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) recalls are still much larger—at this time—as the GM recalls (for a wide variety of issues) included 29.9 million vehicles worldwide.
What's Different This Time?
What makes this recall different is the large number of models that it includes. Takata is one of only three airbag suppliers worldwide, and it currently has nearly 30 percent of the airbag market share. As a result, the use of Takata airbags is widespread to say the least.
So far, automobile models manufactured by BMW, Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Honda Motor Co Ltd, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota Motor Corp are all included in the Takada recall, and more models could be added to the list at any time.
What Does The Recall Mean For The Industry?
According to Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer, this type of recall is an unfortunate side-effect of the modern automotive industry.
“It shows the downside of having an increasingly global automotive supplier base. We’ve moved from having hundreds of automotive suppliers that each served a small part of the industry to having a dozen or so suppliers doing almost everything. This means one problem with a supplier can impact a wide range of makes and models.”
Before the relatively recent supplier consolidation, one faulty product from a single supplier, such as a Takata airbag, would have been a problem that was much easier to contain.
While those inside the NHTSA are assuring drivers of the “aggressive” nature of their investigation, some outsiders are skeptical. AutoTrader analyst Michelle Krebs has seen this type of rhetoric before. Krebs remembers the attentiveness to safety that was temporarily roused by the Toyota recalls in 2013, only to fade from the forefront until the GM recalls this year drew attention to the issue once again.
“One wonders if this will be the time the industry and the government move quickly and decisively… We'll see vigilance for a while, but will it last? That hasn't been the pattern.”
Where Does The Industry Go From Here?
This latest recall is yet another blow to the reputation of the auto industry. The logistics of the Takata airbag recall are certainly producing some unusual circumstances.
Because of the massive number of automobiles affected and the overwhelming demand for replacements, most of the vehicles scheduled to be fixed inside the Unites States are in warm weather states. Takata believes that higher temperatures produce more of an explosion risk for the air bags.
Karl Brauer believes that the replacement process will be extremely difficult because airbag suppliers will see a huge increase in demand for replacement bags in addition to the normal production demand. This sudden increase in demand could mean that the recall process will drag on for years before all the defective bags are replaced.
For a full, updated list of all the recalled models, click here.
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