The Takata air bag recall is yet another large-scale safety report that concerns millions of vehicle owners. And, like the GM ignition switch safety alert before it, it involves a serious problem that can result in grave injury and death. Another attribute it shares with the GM alert is secrecy. It is now clear that engineers with the company were aware of the defect years before any consumers were alerted, and nearly a decade before a full alert was released. As a result, the automotive supplier likely faces millions in damages.
The defect that sparked the Takata air bag recall is found in the propellant canister located behind the inflatable safety cushion. On impact, the propellant inside the canister ignites and blows the cushion out of its compartment. This level of power is needed to get the cushion deployed in a fraction of a second. Some of these canisters, though, are defective and allow humidity to infiltrate into the propellant storage area. This can cause the propellant to deteriorate and combust too aggressively in the event of a crash. This, in turn, will explode the canister, sending sharp metal shrapnel into the cabin of the car. This defect has already resulted in more than 100 injuries, including several deaths, mostly due to severe lacerations and blood loss.
A number of victims are already organizing lawsuits against the supplier, and experts believe that the company will have a hard time defending itself in light of its attempts to keep the error a secret.