Federal regulators have apologized for major technical issues that have made it difficult for affected owners to see if their cars are included in Takata air bag recalls that have been related to at least four deaths in the U.S.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration search tool that lets customers input a vehicle identification number to see if the car has been recalled has been unavailable, and officials have been unable to identify the problem. The agency has also reported inaccurate information as to how many vehicles need to be repaired.
"We greatly regret that the information provided in our initial safety advisory was inaccurate and that we have experienced significant problems with our website," said David Friedman, NHTSA deputy administrator, in a statement quoted by Edmunds.com.
The agency recently issued a warning to more than 4.7 million owners, advising them to take their vehicles in for repairs if they are part of the recent Takata air bag recall that safety advocates say has been related to at least four deaths and multiple injuries. But technical issues won't exactly be helpful for millions of consumers who may be driving at-risk vehicles.
"At this time, the issue does not appear to be related to Internet traffic to the site or hacking," Friedman said in the statement. "The VIN system had been operating properly under high traffic situations. Preliminary indications point to a recent software change that affects how the system interacts with the Internet. The agency is working with our vendors to diagnose and solve the problem."
Tokyo-based Takata is the second-largest supplier of auto parts in the industry, and Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, General Motors and Ford all have vehicles affected by various air bag-related recalls.
The NHTSA has been investigating faulty air bag inflators in vehicles equipped with Takata parts since June. Automakers have recalled around 12 million vehicles worldwide for air bags that can explode and send metal fragments flying at the vehicle's occupants.