Cars may have ‘time-bomb’ airbags

By Dan Buckley

Thousands of Irish motorists may be driving around with “time-bomb” airbags made by Takata, a company whose inflation mechanism was deemed responsible for the deaths and maiming of dozens of people worldwide.

Ten years ago, a huge recall was made of faulty airbag inflators made by Takata but the potentially deadly inflators used by Japanese, American, and European car manufacturers can still be found in tens of thousands of older vehicles on the road.

Nissan Ireland has alerted motorists to the dangers associated with passenger airbags after a previous recall of inflators in driver airbags. In a letter to customers, the warranty department of Nissan Ireland advises owners to have their airbag inflators replaced free of charge.

The dangers associated with Takata airbags mostly concerns older vehicles. The problem is that, due to exposure to humidity over time, the propellant that inflates the airbag burns at too powerful a rate, causing the inflator’s casing to rupture, sending shrapnel flying at the occupants.

In a letter received yesterday by the owner of a 2007 vehicle, Nissan Ireland says it has identified “a potential safety concern” with his Nissan Note.

“The airbag supplier, Takata, has advised Nissan that the passenger airbag fitted in your vehicle may over time develop a fault,” said Nissan.

“In the event of an accident, the airbag may inflate with such extreme force that parts of the airbag unit could shatter, firing metal fragments into the cabin. In such circumstance, these metal fragments could cause severe injury to you and/or your passengers.”

That is what happened to Jewel Brangman, a 26-year-old American model who was driving in Los Angeles on September 7, 2014. A small collision in her rented 2001 Honda Civic caused its defective airbag to inflate with too much force, firing metal shrapnel into her neck and killing her.

Takata filed for bankruptcy protection after 100m air-bag inflators were recalled worldwide. The defect has been linked to 22 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Nissan’s Irish website does not mention the airbag recall but a list of 11 models affected is on its UK site, with vehicles dating from 2001 to 2013.

Takata reached a €540m settlement with the US Department of Justice in February for criminal misconduct involving an alleged cover-up of testing.

Responding to requests for comment, a Nissan spokesman yesterday said: “Nissan is conducting a voluntary recall campaign on Nissan Navara Pickup, Nissan Almera, Nissan Tino, Nissan Terrano, Nissan X-Trail, and Nissan Patrol Pick up for approximately 5,500 vehicles in the Irish market.

“In December 2014, as part of the wider multi-manufacturer recall campaign on Takata airbags globally, Nissan announced a recall campaign on potentially affected Nissan vehicles to inspect the seal integrity of certain Takata front passenger airbag SPI inflators and replace if the sealing was found to have been compromised. Although there have been no known incidents associated with inflators that were not replaced under this recall, Nissan has decided to replace all of the inflators not replaced under the previous recall.”

Nissan is not aware of any accidents or injuries associated with this issue.

- Irish Examiner


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