What’s Wrong With Takata Airbags

On November 2016, a child died in a minor car accident. Huma Hanif should’ve been able to get out of the accident scratch-free. Sadly, the Takata airbag inflator installed inside the 2002 Honda Civic steering wheel exploded. This explosion shot shrapnel at her from close range, cut her neck, and bleed her to death.
Airbags Inflated
That horror story is just one out of many more where defective Takata airbags took lives instead of saving them. The number of injuries is already in the hundreds.

Responding to these catastrophic defects, millions of cars are being recalled. In the U.S. alone, the figure rose to 24 million cars manufactured as late as 2001. When the world is taken into account, the number rockets to more than 85 million. Whether you have a brand new or decade-old car, you should check if yours in one of the hundred car models that are being recalled.

Safecar.gov has a complete list of cars affected by the recall. The list is continuously updated as necessary. To see if your car is affected, go to the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) lookup page and enter the VIN of your car. If it is, go to your dealer to arrange the schedule for repair. Note that some dealer

So, what is wrong with Takata airbags?
An airbag is a complex piece of equipment. Takata themselves claimed they haven’t figured out why some of their airbags explode and shoot shrapnel at passengers instead of inflating the bags. Luckily CNet did some digging and they found out the root cause.

All can be summed up to the lack of protection of ammonium nitrite inside the inflator assembly from humidity. Ammonium nitrite plus humidity means KABOOM, and when enough humidity gets inside the inflator the resulting explosion sends those shrapnel away.

The following video shows how airbags should work.

The SloMo guys also has a nice slow motion video so you can know exactly what happens when airbags are working properly.

Takata Corp. Company Profile

Takata Company Logo
Takata was founded in 1933 in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. It was originally a textile manufacturer making lifelines. They made their first two-point seatbelt in 1960. In 1965, they began using dummies in crash tests to show the effectiveness of their product in preventing casualties.

The horizon were looking brighter in the 70s for Takata. They voluntarily took part in the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests. Out of six companies, they’re the only one managed to clear the 32.3 mph standard.

On 1983, Takata Corporation supplied 800 airbags to numerous U.S. institutions, including police agencies. The production and sale of passenger seat airbags started in 1990. Takata continued to expand its business in North America, Asia, and Europe soon after. Unfortunately, in 2008 the first notable Takata recall took place as Honda Motor recalled about 4000 Accords and Civics worldwide. Takata airbags were considered safety concerns due to excessive internal pressure that could lead to rupture which throw sharpnels in the car.

In 2009, an Oklahoma teenager named Ashley Parham died after the airbag in her 2001 Honda Accord exploded, shooting sharpnels into her neck. Recalls and more recalls follow the years after that.

Market Share
Takata holds about a fifth o the pie when it comes to car airbags – 22% to be exact. So basically about one fifth of the cars in the world has Takata airbags in them. This includes Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Daimler, Dodge/Ram, Ferrari, Fisker, Ford, GMC, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Mercury, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Scion, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, and Volkswagen (VW). Yes, that’s almost every car brand under the sun.

After the fiasco, though, their market share plummeted. Autoliv, a company specializing in automotive safety-parts, on the other hand is thriving. They’re planning to complete over 20 millions of inflator replacements through 2017.

Grim Future?
Just the thought that one faulty airbag on the passenger side can explode and shoot shrapnels at your child can send chills down any parent’s spine. Takata and car manufacturers have no other choice than to issue recalls on affected vehicles. With their brand at stakes, no manufacturers are dumb enough to let the issue slide.

Saying that Takata’s future is grim is in no shape or form an overstatement. Their stock plunged on Thursday, January 19, 2017. Recovery is nowhere in sight. Experts predict that Takata’s market share will continue to spiral downwards all the way to 10% by 2010.

Bidders for Takata Corp is looking into a court-mediated bankruptcy in Japan to mitigate liabilities. A move that will surely affect their suppliers and thus hinder the supply of replacement parts.

At this stage Takata’s dream that the day will come when the word “TAKATA” becomes synonymous with “safety” is just a farfetched idea.

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