WASHINGTON — Federal safety regulators are pressuring automakers to speed up repairs on the 7.8 million vehicles affected by the Takata airbag recalls.
"We urge you to take aggressive and proactive action to expedite your remedy of the recalled vehicles and to supplement Takata's testing with your own testing to fully evaluate the scope and nature of this defect," wrote David Friedman, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The defective Takata airbags may explode metal pieces at vehicle occupants, leading to severe injuries. The potentially defective airbags have been linked to as many as four deaths.
NHTSA is urging automakers to obtain replacement airbags from other suppliers and to speed up distribution of replacement airbags to repair facilities. It is also urging automakers to "incentivize your dealers to increase the number of vehicles repaired."
Federal safety regulators are concerned that replacement parts may not be fully available until after February.
NHTSA is pushing for dealers to offer expanded service hours and loaner vehicles to customers affected by the Takata recalls.
Automakers and Takata have been asked by NHTSA to provide information on how they are handling the recalls by no later than November 5.
At the same time, lawmakers are putting pressure on NHTSA in the wake of the Takata airbag recalls and GM ignition-switch recalls earlier this year.
Members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review of NHTSA's ability to investigative auto defects, especially those involving new technology.
The letter to the GAO said the committee has "concerns about NHTSA's process for obtaining data and investigating vehicle defects and the agency's broader framework and readiness for adapting to technological advances in the industries it oversees."
In 2013, there were 632 vehicle recall campaigns in the U.S. covering 22 million vehicles.
That represents an increase from 2012, when automakers issued 581 vehicle recalls covering 16.4 million vehicles.
Edmunds says: Consumers affected by the Takata recalls may get more help as pressure builds to fix cars with the potentially deadly defect.