WASHINGTON — In a move designed to give anxious consumers some peace of mind, a group of 10 automakers on Thursday named a Virginia-based aerospace and defense firm to conduct independent testing on Takata airbag inflators that have been at the center of a massive recall campaign.
Approximately 17 million vehicles with defective Takata airbags have been recalled since 2008 and just under 2 million of those have been fixed as of December 31, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The defective airbag inflators can rupture when they deploy, spewing shrapnel at vehicle occupants.
Six deaths are linked to the recall.
"Orbital ATK is one of the world's leading engineering firms and we are confident that their extensive expertise will help speed and advance the ongoing technical investigation of Takata airbag inflators," said the automakers in a joint statement on Thursday. "We look forward to the results of this testing process as we continue to focus on the safety, security and peace of mind of our customers."
The automakers also said that David Kelly, former acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator, will serve as project manager and coordinator for the automakers in the Orbital ATK probe.
Takata, under NHTSA oversight, also is testing airbag inflators to search for the root cause of the problem.
Orbital ATK has expertise in rocket propulsion systems, according to its Web site. It is expected to examine Takata's use of ammonium nitrate as the propellant in its airbag inflators.
NHTSA on Wednesday ordered Takata to preserve all airbag inflators removed through the recall process as evidence for NHTSA's investigation and private litigation cases.
Edmunds says: Consumers want some answers and this independent testing program should provide them.