The New York Times has conducted a thorough investigation to try and find out the whole story behind Takata’s faulty airbags which so far has been linked to the death of 14 people. The company’s airbag division was having financial problems during the end of the 1990s and early 2000s and it was trying to find a way to get back in shape by implementing a cost-saving measure. The solution it came up with was to develop a cheaper airbag inflator by using an ammonium nitrate compound.
Takata then approached General Motors to offer the new inflator which was around 30 percent more affordable to manufacture compared to the ones GM was using at that time from Autoliv. According to the math done by The New York Times, savings per each inflator totaled a few dollars, with GM telling Autoliv to create a similar airbag inflator or else lose the contract to Takata.
Facing the request from GM, Autoliv decided to evaluate Takata’s inflator and test it only to find out it was ‘dangerously volatile’. As a consequence, Autoliv told GM it could not come out with a similar, cheaper to make product, and cautioned the automaker about the dangers. However, GM decided to ignore the warning and signed a contract with Takata to use the inflator which years later turned out to be very problematic.
Interestingly, a GM spokesman contacted by NYT said it was ‘not appropriate for us to comment’ regarding the discussions, motivating that the talks ‘occurred two decades ago between old GM and a supplier.’
But GM was not the only automaker to receive warnings from Autoliv, with the report indicating other car manufacturers such as Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Honda, Mazda, and Toyota all being informed by the dangers of the Takata-supplied airbag inflators. Cars from all of these marques are now being subjected to a massive recall involving more than 60 million airbags that have to be replaced.
Last month, Honda published preliminary results of an internal audit showing Takata misrepresented airbag inflator testing results by deciding to eliminate negative test data from their reports, according to audit investigator Brian O’Neill. The audit which is being co-funded by Takata is a work in progress and is still months away from completion, but the results should allow Honda better understand the depth of the issue.
You can read the findings of the investigation at the source link below.