US regulator demands a nationwide recall of cars with Takata air bags

The US auto safety regulator has urged automakers and Japanese airbags supplier Takata to expand a nationwide recall of cars that contain potentially deadly air bags, pressuring the industry to address the controversial issue as soon as possible.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Takata a warning for “an unwillingness to move forward” in regards to a nationwide recall, adding that the Japanese company needs to be clear about the risks of its air bags to the American public.

So far five deaths, four of which occurred in the United States, have been linked to air bags produced by Takata. The airbags are considered to be dangerous as some of them can rupture upon deployment, shooting metal shards inside the car.

The agency ordered Honda Motor Co., Mazda Motor Co., Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Group LLC and BMW to notify its customers as soon as possible for replacement of driver’s-side air bags. All these car companies said that they are going to continue to cooperate with NHTSA.

The regional recall involved 4.1 million cars located in hot and humid areas where the air bags are more prone to fail. The NHTSA now wants to expand the recall across the country.

Auto safety advocates have criticized the regulators recent move as not being an enforceable mandate and coming too late.

NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said that the move to expand the recall was made after an incident involving a 2007 Ford Mustang in North Carolina – outside the area where the regional recall was made.

Friedman said:

“We will begin a process both with Takata and the automakers to force them to recall all affected vehicles.”

Friedman also said that Takata was resistant when the NHTSA this week asked them to make a nationwide defect notification for air bags of a certain design.

“Takata’s initial response was an unwillingness to move forward, and frankly, that is one of the reasons that we are talking to all of you today, because I believe that everyone needs to understand that Takata needs to act,” Friedman said.

Friedman did not provide an estimate of how many more cars would be part of the nationwide recall, and it is uncertain whether there are enough parts to cover the expansion quickly. According to the NHTSA, they are pressuring Takata to increase the production of replacement parts.

In a statement the NHTSA said:

“The agency is demanding this information to compel Takata and the affected industry to be frank with not only NHTSA, but the American public,”