November of 2008 saw the first recall announced for Takata driver-side inflators due to improperly manufactured propellant wafers. Due to that oversight, inflators rupture upon activation. It would represent the beginning of a nightmare for the manufacturer as countless recalls continued, eventually reaching approximately 2. 5 million.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has deemed the recall the largest and most complex in U.S. history, leaving many car owners with severe and life-threatening injuries.
An ever-growing problem
Through various announcements, the recall has grown to include 67 million airbags from more than 42 million vehicles in the U.S. The recalls have been conducted in waves, prioritized by risk. Specific models considered to be extremely risky to the point of issuing warnings not to drive them and seek repairs as soon as possible are:
- 2001 to 2003 Honda and Acura
- 2006 Ford Ranger
- Mazda B-Series pickups
- 1999 BMW 323i and 328i
All airbags inflate with explosive force to provide immediate protection to motor vehicle occupants. With Takata, their bags propelled metal shards, putting occupants in a literal line of fire.
The root cause of the problem has been long confirmed. An ammonium nitrate propellant lacked a chemical drying agent. Add to that moisture from the environment, significant temperatures, and the ravages of age have led to 24 fatalities and 400-plus injuries.
The irony of a lifesaving device taking lives has not been lost on consumers and the advocates striving to protect them. Putting trust in manufacturers is often a risky proposition, particularly when the products they make fall short.