The recent recall of BMW SUVs in the U.S. has once again raised concerns about the safety of Takata airbag inflators. These inflators, manufactured by Takata Corp. of Japan, have been found to be prone to exploding in a crash, sending metal shrapnel flying and posing a serious risk of injury or even death to vehicle occupants. The recall affects 486 X3, X4, and X5 SUVs from the 2014 model year. However, it also shines a spotlight on the larger issue of the millions of Takata inflators that remain under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Takata’s airbag inflators rely on ammonium nitrate to create a controlled explosion that inflates the airbag during a collision. However, this volatile chemical compound can degrade over time, particularly when exposed to high temperatures and humidity. When the ammonium nitrate deteriorates, it can cause the inflator to deploy with excessive force, rupturing the metal casing and releasing dangerous metal fragments into the vehicle cabin. Since May 2009, at least 26 people have been killed in the U.S. by Takata inflators, with a further 30 deaths reported worldwide in countries like Malaysia and Australia. Additionally, hundreds of people have been injured by these defective airbags.
The recall of BMW SUVs is just one small part of the massive auto recall initiated due to the potential danger posed by Takata inflators. The NHTSA has estimated that around 30 million Takata inflators are currently under investigation, with the majority of them still not being recalled. This makes it the largest series of auto recalls in U.S. history, involving approximately 67 million inflators. Despite the scale of the recall, a significant number of vehicles with these defective inflators have not yet been repaired, putting countless drivers and passengers at risk.
What sets the BMW recall apart from previous recalls is the presence of a moisture-absorbing chemical called a dessicant in the inflators. This addition was not part of earlier recalls. The introduction of this new element raises questions about the effectiveness of the dessicant in preventing inflator ruptures. The preliminary investigation into the BMW recall suggests that there may have been a manufacturing defect between February and March of 2014. It is crucial for BMW to investigate the issue further and determine the exact cause of the ruptures to prevent more incidents from occurring.
The dangers posed by Takata inflators extend beyond BMW vehicles. The NHTSA has opened an investigation into inflators with a dessicant across various car and truck manufacturers, including Honda, General Motors, Ford, Nissan, and Tesla. This investigation covers more than 30 million inflators in over 200 models. While the agency decided not to recall the dessicated Takata inflators in May 2020, it acknowledged the need for further evaluation of the future risks associated with these inflators. The probe is ongoing, and additional action may be taken depending on the findings.
The recall of BMW SUVs serves as a stark reminder of the importance of consumer safety in the automotive industry. Manufacturers must prioritize the well-being of their customers by thoroughly investigating potential defects and taking prompt action to rectify any issues found. Additionally, regulatory bodies like the NHTSA should continue to monitor and evaluate the safety of automotive components, such as airbag inflators, to ensure that consumers are protected from unnecessary harm.
The recall of BMW SUVs due to faulty Takata airbag inflators highlights the ongoing safety concerns surrounding these potentially dangerous components. The threat posed by exploding inflators and the potential for metal shrapnel to harm vehicle occupants cannot be underestimated. As the investigation into Takata inflators continues, it is crucial for automakers and regulatory agencies to prioritize consumer safety and take appropriate measures to address any risks identified. By doing so, the automotive industry can uphold its commitment to providing safe and reliable vehicles for all.