A Senate report released today on the ongoing Takata airbag debacle reveals that four automakers are still selling (or, inexplicably, plan to sell) vehicles equipped with airbags that are certainly defective. What's more, the report found that some vehicles that have already been recalled — nearly 70 million individual airbags, and counting — have been fitted with replacement inflator systems that will need to be replaced again, because they have the same problem as the originals.
The situation, which affects dozens of automakers worldwide, involves airbags made by Japanese supplier Takata. The airbags have inflators that can deteriorate over time, leading to uncontrolled explosions that can send dangerous (and sometimes fatal) shrapnel flying at drivers and passengers. High-low temperature cycles and humidity are believed to contribute to the deterioration, which has led to updated inflators that use desiccants to remove moisture from the surrounding air; somehow, some non-desiccated inflators are still being installed both in new and recalled vehicles.
Honestly, you don't need to go beyond the report's table of contents to understand how deeply screwed up the situation is:
The report's language sounds exasperated in sections, and it's an understandable tone to take: the recall has grown in fits and starts over the past year, and will take several additional years to fully resolve — assuming automakers can even get safe parts into their vehicles, which they aren't yet doing consistently.
"As an initial matter, the sale of new vehicles containing Takata non-desiccated ammonium-nitrate inflators should be stopped until these vehicles are repaired," the report concludes, suggesting that NHTSA and the auto industry coordinate to increase the supply of safe inflators as quickly as possible.