Gulf Coast residents may be at a higher risk due to a defective airbag design because of high humidity in the region. At least three deaths have been connected to a defective airbag design, manufactured by Takata, a Japanese auto supplier. The defective airbag may cause metal shrapnel to propel outward towards drivers and passengers in the event of an auto collision. More than 14 million vehicles from eleven different automakers have been recalled that contain the defective airbag. At this point it is unclear exactly how many vehicles contain the defective airbag. The manufacturers have issued a recall for all known models with the defective airbag. Takata airbags have been a long-running problem for the auto industry and the subject of several other recalls.
Takata stresses that they want consumers to have their vehicles fixed, but they may not have sufficient available parts to complete repairs. Honda has claimed they do not have enough parts to fix the cars immediately. Toyota’s solution to the shortage is to disable the defective airbag and leave a note warning anyone not to ride in the front passenger seat. Replacement parts for vehicles could be weeks away from being available. The companies are putting priority on vehicle owners in humid climates. The manufacturers believe the humidity makes the defective airbag more likely to explode.
The defective airbag is due to a faulty propellant that is intended to burn quickly and produce gas to inflate the airbag, but instead is too strong and can rupture its container; which results in metal parts being projected into the cabin of the car. Takata performed tests that confirmed these findings and the tests results were what lead to the recall. There are 844,000 Toyota vehicles affected by the defective airbag. Toyota is urging vehicle owners along the Gulf Coast–which number approximately 247,000–to make a special effort to have their cars fixed due to the high humidity in the region.
There is evidence that Honda and Takata failed to take action in issuing a recall even though they knew of the danger the defective airbag could pose. The manufacturers received complaints by various regulators that claim Takata airbags may be responsible for 139 injuries, with 37 claiming exploding airbags. Honda acknowledges three deaths from the defective airbag. A woman in Orlando was killed by shrapnel to her neck which caused the police to initially consider her death a homicide. Thirty additional people are confirmed by Honda to have been injured by the airbags. In September 2011 a man in Puerto Rico was injured by flying shrapnel after crashing his Honda Civic.