Takata air bag recall probe could expand, says US regulator

By REUTERS | 20 October 2015

WASHINGTON: US regulators said on Monday they could expand their investigation into Takata Corp  air bag inflators beyond 11 automakers, as questions arose about whether vehicle design played a role in the devices posing a deadly risk to the public.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief Mark Rosekind said his agency can add more auto manufacturers to the consent order that regulators announced with Takata in May. He said some car makers could also begin to move more quickly when they suspect a potential problem.

On Thursday, NHTSA expects to make a case in public that it should coordinate the Takata recall to ensure that an estimated 23.4 million air bag inflators installed in 19.2 million US vehicles from 11 automakers are properly replaced.

"We’ll try to be very specific on Thursday but it goes beyond the 11,” Rosekind told reporters.

"All of these are fitting under the investigation we currently have. And we’ll be talking about all of those," he said.

The air bag inflators, which can explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into passenger compartments, have been linked to at least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.

Rosekind's comments follow news in August that regulators directed the US units of Volkswagen AG to provide information on the June rupture of a Takata side air bag in a 2015 model VW Tiguan. The report does not fit the pattern of other cases, which have involved front air bags of older model vehicles.

Takata declined on Tuesday to comment on which automakers' cars could be added to the list under investigation. The list already includes vehicles manufactured by Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co. Ltd and General Motors.

"We're concentrating on producing replacement parts and we're working with automakers to contain the issue. We plan to continue our co-operation with NHTSA," a company spokesman said.