Center for Auto Safety Recommends that GM Complete Takata Recalls
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Center for Auto Safety Recommends that GM Complete Takata Recalls

Thursday, August 02, 2018By Nina Shapirshteyn

General Motors (GM) has filed three petitions requesting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) excuse it from recalling millions of cars containing Takata airbags in a variety of GMC brands and models. In response to its petitions, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has recommended that GM be forced to comply with recalls to repair all Takata airbags. CAS maintains that GM has not shown that the airbag inflators are actually safe. The organization has also been critical of GM’s approach thus far to the massive recall of Takata airbag inflators.

GM Petitions NHTSA

GM has submitted three petitions – the final one as of February, 2018- to obtain a recall exemption from the NHTSA for millions of its trucks and SUVs. In its petition, GM alleges that the airbag inflators in its trucks and SUVs were manufactured differently than the airbags in vehicles subject to the recall in the past. GM desperately wants to avoid a recall of the additional vehicles which may cost the automaker close to $1 billion. NHTSA has not responded to these petitions in a timely fashion which leaves owners wondering whether their vehicles are safe and what options they have if GM fails to issue a recall.

GM Claims its Takata Airbags Do Not Pose Similar Risks

Takata airbag inflators are at risk of exploding when one of the chemicals in the propellant, ammonium nitrate, comes in contact with moisture. The chemical becomes unstable when exposed to moisture, which can result in a significant blast that sends shrapnel to the face and body of the driver and/or passenger. GM maintains that the inflators are shielded from moisture because of the manner in which they are installed in the car’s instrument panel. The automaker also claims that it uses a specialized window glass to enable the inflator to maintain a cooler temperature than it would with other glass. GM engaged researchers to test the inflators and reported that there were no explosions in 5,000 trials. These researchers also concluded that the airbags would be safe to use for a period of 30 years.

CAS Responds to GM Petition

CAS objected to both GM’s analysis and conclusions. It alleged that the investigative and testing process was flawed and therefore, does not support its petition. First, the consumer advocacy group maintained that GM’s scientific testing only took into account two variables and provided no reasoning for the temperature range that was chosen for testing. The environmental testing performed by GM was also criticized as unreliable since GM appeared to remove parts from the test population that were unlikely to pass. GM also did not demonstrate that these airbags can hold up over the lifetime of the vehicle and has no action plan in place if the airbags begin to have operational issues. These defects, along with others, pose a substantial safety risk to drivers and owners who are operating potentially deadly vehicles with no knowledge and foresight about when they might malfunction.

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