U.S. says Takata vehicle recall size includes double counting

Tue Jun 23, 2015 12:56pm EDT
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By David Morgan and Ben Klayman

(Reuters) - U.S. auto safety regulators said on Tuesday their estimate for the millions of vehicles affected by the Takata Corp air bag recall will likely be revised because cars with two front air bags were double-counted.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has come under fire for failing early on to catch the defective Takata air bag inflators, as well as faulty ignition switches in General Motors Co vehicles. Both high-profile recalls pushed the agency into the spotlight.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind told the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday that regulators are waiting for automakers to provide information including the number of Takata inflators that must be replaced more than once. Rosekind cited his agency's underfunding, low staffing and lack of authority as some lawmakers criticized NHTSA.

“You’ve got too many complaints and not enough people,” he said. “It’s just overwhelming.”

Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, said NHTSA's problems will not be solved purely with additional resources. Rosekind said he would provide a list of 44 changes the agency is implementing to improve effectiveness, and Congress needs to give NHTSA more power to compel recalls.

The Obama administration said last month it was doubling the number of vehicles involved to nearly 34 million, making the Takata recall the largest in U.S. history. But a Reuters analysis found the number could prove to be less than half that.

Rosekind, who testified at the same hearing as representatives from Takata, automakers and the Department of Transportation, said on Tuesday there are about 34 million defective inflators in 32 million vehicles on U.S. roads that need to be replaced.

"It is important to note that this number is an estimate and will be refined," he said. "We know that there are almost certainly vehicles that are counted twice."   Continued...

A logo of Takata Corp is seen with its display at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo, Japan, May 8, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino