Ford just hopped on the bandwagon with Honda, Nissan and Toyota in the refusal to use Takata’s ammonium nitrate-containing airbag inflators in future vehicle lines. The defective inflators have caused eight deaths, over 100 injuries and a massive 19M+ vehicle recall campaign. NHTSA even took steps to smack down the Japanese company, citing evidence that Takata didn’t timely disclose the defect.
A growing number of automakers is going on the record that they will not use ammonium nitrate-containing airbag components from Japanese supplier Takata in future vehicle lines. In an historic move, Honda, Nissan and Toyota, also Japanese firms, took a stand against Takata, refusing to use its products in future vehicles. A U.S. automaker has just hopped on that bandwagon as Ford flips Takata the bird over faulty airbag inflators.
Ford Motor Company is the fourth automaker to “just say ‘no’” to Takata. One can hardly blame Ford or the others. After all, the defect turns the airbag inflators into the micro-equivalent of Claymore anti-personnel mines as the metal from the casing is forcefully blown into the passenger cabin. So far, this defect has cost eight people their lives and generated over 100 injuries worldwide.
A spokesperson for Ford, Kelli Felker, told the press the company won’t use Takata airbag inflators containing ammonium nitrate propellant in any of the vehicles that are currently under development. Sadly, for the automaker, that doesn’t do much to assuage the sting caused by the 1.5M vehicle recall caused by the defect.
That recall includes Ford’s flagship muscle car, the Mustang (model years 2005 to 2015), the popular Ranger pick-up (model years 2004 to 2006) and the supercar Ford GT (model years 2005 and 2006). While Ford isn’t one of Takata’s largest customers like Honda and Toyota, the company’s decision to ditch Takata serves to increase the pressure on the airbag suppler. As well it should, given that evidence exists that Takata has known the cause (the ammonium nitrate) of this problem for some time now and failed to disclose it.
To date, one dozen automakers in the U.S. have issued recalls on over 19M vehicles with Takata airbags in addition to the millions of other recalls worldwide. Takata is having serious difficulties meeting the demand for replacement parts due to financial troubles. Personally, I wouldn’t let a Takata replacement part be installed in my vehicle; I don’t find the company to be either reliable or trustworthy enough.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) agrees. Earlier this month, NHTSA hit Takata with a $70M penalty for failing to promptly disclose the defect. The agreement between Takata and NHTSA also includes a requirement that Takata phase out ammonium nitrate as an airbag propellant unless it can prove the chemical is safe.
Chemists the world over are surely laughing at that last bit. Ammonium nitrate’s explosive power is seriously affected by exposure to moisture. Unless Takata can either make the inflators 100% moisture proof or alter the laws of chemistry, I don’t fancy its chances of proving the propellant’s safety.
If Takata doesn’t satisfactorily meet the terms of the NHTSA agreement, the $70M fine could jump to a massive $130M, the largest civil punishment in the history of the auto industry.