Takata air bag recall could take years to complete

Wed May 20, 2015 8:26pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Takata Corp's (7312.T: Quote) record U.S. recall of potentially deadly air bag inflators could take years to complete, industry experts and safety advocates said, as automakers scrambled to line up replacement parts, some not from Takata.

After doubling its recall of defective air bags to nearly 34 million vehicles, the Japanese company and competitors scrambled to ramp up production of replacement parts.

The complexity of the recall could play out over at least two years, said Kevin Pollack, vice president for Stericycle ExpertSolutions, which is helping some of the affected automakers. "There weren't 30 million extra air bag inflators sitting around."

A Takata spokesman said the company would raise output to 1 million inflators a month by September, an increase of 100,000 parts from the previous forecast and up from the current monthly level of 500,000.

Mark Rosekind, an administrator for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said completing the recall could take "some years."

Takata and the NHTSA, which has hired independent research group Battelle to uncover the technical cause of the problem, said the priority for the replacement parts would be older vehicles and those in higher-humidity regions.

The air bag inflators have been found to explode with too much force, spraying metal fragments inside cars and forcing automakers to recall more than 53 million vehicles worldwide since 2008. The component has been linked to six deaths, all in cars made by the supplier's top customer, Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote).

Takata and its customers will determine who receives the replacement parts, in a process being overseen by the NHTSA.   Continued...

A deployed, passenger side air bag is seen in a 2002 BMW at an auto dismantling facility in San Francisco, California May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith