The United States is asking General Motors to recall and repair nearly 6 million pickup trucks and SUVs equipped with potentially dangerous Takata airbag inflators.
The move announced Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will cost the automaker about $ 1.2 billion, or about a third of its bottom line this year.
GM had petitioned the agency four times starting in 2016 to avoid a recall, saying the airbag inflators were safe on the road and during testing. But the owners responded by accusing the company of putting profits above safety.
Takata used volatile ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to fill air bags in an accident. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to heat and humidity and explode with too much force, detonating a metal canister and spitting out shrapnel.
Twenty-seven people have been killed worldwide by exploding inflators, including 18 in the United States
It took more than four years for the agency to come to its decision.
NHTSA said in a statement that it has analyzed all available data on air bags, including technical and statistical analysis, aging tests and field data.
“Based on this information and the information provided on the petition public record, NHTSA concluded that the GM inflators in question were at risk of the same type of explosion after long-term exposure to high heat and humidity as other Takata inflators recalled, ”the agency said. noted.
The company has 30 days to give NHTSA a proposed timeline to notify vehicle owners and initiate the recall, the statement said.
GM has said that while it believes a recall is not warranted based on the factual and scientific records, it will comply with the NHTSA ruling.
“The safety and confidence of those who drive our vehicles is at the forefront of everything we do at General Motors,” the company said in a statement.
The ruling means all Takata ammonium nitrate inflators in the United States will be recalled, NHTSA said. Earlier this year, the agency decided not to request a recall of inflators containing a moisture-absorbing chemical called desiccant. But NHTSA has said it will monitor these inflators and take action if there are issues.
In a 2019 petition to NHTSA, GM said the inflators were designed to its specifications and were safe, explosion-free, even though nearly 67,000 air bags were deployed in the field.
But Takata has declared GM’s front passenger inflators to be faulty under a 2015 agreement with the government.
The explosion of Takata inflators sparked the largest series of car recalls in US history, with at least 63 million inflators recalled.
In its petition, GM said Northrop Grumman tested 4,270 inflators by artificially exposing them to additional humidity and temperature cycles, and that there were no explosions or abnormal deployments. He says GM has “determined that exposure to moisture and worse-than-worst temperature cycling will not cause inflator ruptures … at any time, even under unrealistic and conservative vehicle life estimates.” .
The explosion of Takata inflators sparked the largest series of car recalls in US history, with at least 63 million inflators recalled. The US government says that as of September, more than 11.1 million had not been repaired. Around 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide.
Most of the deaths have been in the United States, but they have also been in Australia and Malaysia.
Drivers can check if their vehicles have been recalled.
The recalls drove the Japanese Takata into bankruptcy and brought criminal proceedings against the company. Eventually, it was purchased by a Chinese auto parts supplier.