Feds Tell Takata, Automakers To Fix Exploding Air Bags Faster

Oct 31, 2014 09:00 AM EDT | Tim Healey

Thanks in part to public pressure, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is putting the screws to automakers and trying to get them to address the burgeoning Takata air bag recall scandal more quickly. But automakers may not be able to speed up the process, said a Reuters report.

That's because it will take a while for air bag supplier Takata to manufacture and supply replacement parts to fix the faulty air bags, which can explode too forcefully and send shrapnel everywhere. Takata has said it won't have a full supply until January or possibly later, and it's asking automakers to look elsewhere to find the parts.

Meanwhile, NHTSA is telling automakers to be ready to expand the recall to other parts of the country instead of just the hot and humid regions that have been the focus so far, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Federal regulators are also pressuring Takata to boost production and asking automakers to do more to speed up the recall campaign.

This means that manufacturing realities are bumping up against political pressure and consumer advocacy, with a little bit of populist outrage thrown into the mix. The NHTSA (and by extension, the presidential administration) faces pressure from consumer advocates, the media and politicians to be more on the ball, in turn exerting pressure on the automakers and Takata to get the job done faster.

But the reality is that production can only speed up so much, and Takata has supplied a lot of air bags--more than 10 million vehicles have been recalled already--so it will take a while to get replacement parts.

In the meantime, NHTSA deputy director David Friedman wants automakers to give out loaner cars to owners of affected vehicles when they bring in from repair, while also asking carmakers to do more to advertise possible air bag dangers. He also wants automakers to do their own testing of Takata air bags.

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