© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Safety Agency Wants Millions More Air Bags Recalled


A death here in California has prompted federal regulators to recommend a wider recall of airbags from one of the largest makers of airbags. The Takata Corporation of Japan supplies them to cars around the world. Some of those airbags can be dangerous in warm, humid climates. And carmakers have been sending recall notices to car owners in parts of the southern United States. Now federal regulators want the recall extended to all 50 states, which would be a huge undertaking. NPR's Sonari Glinton is here with us to explain. Good morning.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: It's good to be with you.

MONTAGNE: Remind us what is going on with those airbags.

GLINTON: So the problem with these defective airbags is that when they deploy, they send out metal shards into the car, and that can harm passengers. So NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the carmakers sort of had agreed that this was contained in the states where it was humid and hot. So places like Mississippi and Texas...

MONTAGNE: Louisiana.

GLINTON: Louisiana, etc., and that there weren't going to be any incidents outside of that area. But it turned out there were two - one in California and one in North Carolina - that prompted regulators to suggest that the recall be widened to the rest of the states.

MONTAGNE: And no one died in the North Carolina incident, still quite concerning. One problem, though, is that automakers have not been able to keep up with the recalls. They want airbags in their cars, but they can't replace them.

GLINTON: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's not as if there were 40 or 50 airbag companies. There are only a handful, and Takata is one of the biggest ones. So not only are they having to make parts for the recalled airbags - 8 million-plus now - they're also having to make airbags for cars right now that are going to be in showrooms in December. So there are these huge forces coming together that cause this problem of delays.

MONTAGNE: Well, is this recall so important that the federal government thinks, well, OK, there's this shortage of replacement bags, but we really have to expand this to 50 states?

GLINTON: Yeah, and it always takes some time for a recall to ramp up. You have to get the mail out to people. The information goes to your - where the vehicle is registered. And the carmakers have to make the parts. And, you know, there's a ramp-up. It wasn't until August that the majority of the parts for the GM recall were available, and we knew about that in February. So it takes time to add shifts and things like that before you can sort of get a recall going.

MONTAGNE: Well, can people get their cars repaired, or should they if they haven't received one of these recall notices?

GLINTON: Well, the first thing you have to do is check to see if your car is under recall. And you can go to recalls.gov, which is a government website, and type in your vehicle identification number. Now this is one of those things that we're just going to have to get used to doing. Twice a year, you change your clocks. Twice a year, you reset the batteries in your smoke detectors. This is going to have to go down on that list of things to do is, oh, check the website to see if my car has a recall 'cause a lot of these recalls are really important, and you want to get them fixed.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Sonari Glinton. Thanks very much.

GLINTON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: November 18, 2014 at 11:00 PM CST
In the original audio of this report an incorrect address was given for the government's Website where recalls are posted. It is www.recalls.gov.
Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.