It Appear GM Knew About the Takata Airbag Problem, but Made Good Use of It
The Takata airbag recall has been the largest recall in the world thus far. These airbags are considered unsafe to use because of the possibility of moisture entering the inflator and causing the airbag to ignite. These airbags have been linked to several deaths and many injuries because they can shoot shrapnel at the passenger in a vehicle, which is the cause of some of the injuries. The most recent news on this airbag concern and recall is that a competitor warned GM about these airbags being unsafe nearly twenty years ago.
Autoliv is a direct competitor of Takata and was asked by GM to replicate the design that Takata was using. The Takata airbag was the choice GM wanted to use because it was much cheaper than any other airbag on the market, but the Autoliv scientists warned against its use because the inflator would turn to shrapnel because the use of the ammonium nitrate was too fast to explode. Because of their finding Autoliv refused to create the design GM wanted them to make which meant GM was left with the choice to take the word of competing scientists or take a chance with the Takata product.
Actually, there was a third option and it seems to have worked out fine for GM which was to figure out how to use the Takata airbags and keep them from being able to blow shrapnel at the occupants of a vehicle. What GM did was design parts around the airbag that would keep the inflator from being exposed to moisture and from being exposed to high temperatures, both of the issues that were reported to them by Autoliv in relation to these airbags. Apparently the Takata airbags were cheap enough to purchase that GM felt this was the right course of action to ensure they could have the airbags they wanted.
This added benefit has worked so far. Of the 44,000 crashes of GM vehicles where Takata airbags were used, no inflators have ruptured at all. This is a fantastic service record and possibly what should have been shared with other automakers to help them keep their Takata airbags from being exposed to high heat and moisture. While it’s not the responsibility of GM to share their information with the rest of the market, this massive recall might have been avoided had they done so.
Unfortunately there have been 14 deaths and 100 injuries in vehicles using the Takata airbags and in all cases the cause was directly linked to the airbags and the rupturing of the inflator. Most of these fatalities and injuries were in Honda vehicles, but the Takata airbag has been recalled from every vehicle it’s been placed on around the world. It seems a little ingenuity and understanding of what was causing this problem is all that was needed to avoid a large recall and a number of crashes that resulted in deaths and injuries.