WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent a letter today to Takata seeking answers on whether the company’s new airbag inflators pose a serious safety risk. The lawmakers’ letter comes in the wake of last week’s recall of some 400 GM vehicles for potentially defective side airbags and a June incident involving the rupture of a side airbag inflator in a 2015 VW Tiguan. Specifically, the lawmakers want to know whether a connection exists between the more recent side airbag ruptures and the previously issued recall on millions of vehicles with defective airbags. The text of the letter is below.
Mr. Shigehisa Takada
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
c/o Takata Corporation, U.S. Headquarters
2500 Takata Drive
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
Dear Mr. Takada:
We are writing to inquire further regarding reports that, in June 2015, a piece of metal shrapnel struck the driver of a 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan when the vehicle’s side airbag inflator ruptured during deployment. Although the driver did not require immediate medical attention, the incident raises a number of questions regarding the scope of current recalls. As you are aware, the Committee continues to examine the potential risk that millions of defective Takata airbags in vehicles on the road today may pose to the driving public. We appreciate Takata’s cooperation and the information it has provided to date.
This is the first reported incident involving a rupture of a Takata SSI-20 side airbag inflator in a consumer-operated vehicle. Takata has repeatedly emphasized the critical role long-term exposure of vehicles to high heat and humidity may play in ruptures of its ammonium nitrate-based inflators subject to previous recalls. This incident, however, involved a vehicle that was less than one year old. In addition, General Motors LLC (GM) filed a Part 573 Safety Recall report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on October 16, 2015, announcing a recall of approximately 400 2015 GM vehicles for potentially defective side airbags due to the failure of a side airbag inflator during a “Lot Acceptance Test (LAT) cold test (-40c)” at the Takata Monclova, Mexico plant on October 5, 2015.
We seek to gain a better understanding as to whether these incidents are connected to the defects associated with the previous recalls, as well as whether they reflect issues related to the newer ammonium-nitrate based inflators. We appreciate the briefing that Takata already provided to Committee staff regarding these issues and would like some additional information and clarification. To further assist the Committee in its inquiry, please respond to the following requests:
How many SSI-20 inflators have been manufactured to date? Provide the number of SSI-20 inflators manufactured for each automaker annually from 2007 to present.
Provide a detailed description of any additional known field ruptures, or alleged field ruptures, of SSI-20 inflators. For each field rupture, include the date of the incident; the location of the incident (including city and state, if in the U.S.); whether the incident involved a death(s) and/or injury or injuries; and the make, model, and model year of the vehicle.
Provide a detailed description of Takata’s Lot Acceptance Testing (LAT) protocols for SSI-20 inflators, including the total number of inflators in each lot, the total number of inflators from each lot that are tested, the types of tests conducted, and the location of testing, from 2010 to the present.
Provide a detailed description of Takata’s Conformity of Production (CoP) Testing protocols for SSI-20 inflators, including the total number of inflators from each lot that are tested, the types of tests conducted, and the location of testing, from 2010 to the present.
Is Takata aware of any SSI-20 ruptures of inflators or their components that have occurred during internal testing or any external testing commissioned by Takata? If so, provide a detailed description of each incident, including the date and location of the incident (city and state, if in the U.S.).
Did Takata supply any SSI-20 inflators to an automaker that were part of any production lots in which testing identified failures? If so, provide the date of the production, identify the automaker(s), and provide the total number of inflators supplied.
Provide an updated description of Takata’s procedures for storing and shipping propellant from the place of propellant production to inflator assembly plants. Include a detailed description of the mode of transportation used, the packaging of the propellant, and how Takata minimizes the propellant’s exposure to moisture and/or humidity during the shipping and/or storing process.
Identify any changes in the SSI-20 inflator manufacturing process, testing protocols, transportation, or any other related processes or protocols since 2010.
Provide an updated description of the status of Takata’s root cause analysis of the June 2015 VW SSI-20 field rupture and the October 5, 2015, LAT cold test failure at the Monclova, Mexico facility, including a description of all remaining theories that Takata believes might explain the rupture, as well as the type of inflator involved in the aforementioned LAT cold test failure.
Does testing to date show that the use of ammonium nitrate propellant in SSI-20 inflators is causally related or contributes in any way to any of the SSI-20 internal testing or field rupture?
Please provide the requested information as soon as possible, but by no later than November 13, 2015. Thank you again for your assistance with this matter.
JOHN THUNE BILL NELSON
Chairman Ranking Member