WASHINGTON — Consumers may need to return to their dealerships for a second time to replace some Takata airbag inflators in their vehicles that were previously installed as remedy parts in prior recalls, the Japanese supplier will tell Congress today in a hearing.
Kevin M. Kennedy, Takata's executive vice president of North America, will disclose a detailed plan for how the company will deal with the historic recall that affects nearly 34 million vehicles made by 11 automakers.
His written testimony was posted on Monday on the Web site of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
The affected vehicles contain defective airbags that can explode and shoot metal shrapnel at vehicle occupants. At least six deaths have been linked to the recall.
Kennedy said Takata will replace so-called "batwing" inflators already installed in some vehicles as replacement parts.
"The final stage of the recalls will include the replacement of batwing driver inflators that were previously installed as remedy parts in prior recalls," according to his written testimony. "Takata has also committed to cease production of these types of driver inflators. And we are working with our automaker partners to transition to newer versions of driver inflators in our replacement kits or inflators made by other suppliers that do not contain ammonium nitrate propellant."
The recalls will take part in four stages.
The first stage will target older vehicles that have only been registered in the southern states, Hawaii and U.S. territories where the levels of absolute humidity are higher than anywhere else in the country.
Subsequent stages of the recalls will target the driver inflators made in later years and vehicles registered in other states outside the areas of high humidity.
"The recalls will continue until we have replaced all of these driver inflators, from start of production to end of production, and they will include vehicles manufactured by five different automakers ? Honda, BMW, Chrysler, Ford and Mazda," Kennedy said.
To get the word out to consumers about the need to bring their cars in for repair, Takata said it is developing "a proactive advertising campaign."
Kennedy will tell lawmakers that in the case of the driver airbag inflators, most of the ruptures that have occurred in vehicles on the road have involved older versions of Takata's driver-airbag inflators. These are the driver inflators with the original "batwing-shaped" propellant wafers.
There have been 67 reported cases of field ruptures involving the older batwing driver inflators, according to Kennedy's testimony. These "represent approximately 0.0087 percent of estimated total deployments of these airbags or fewer than nine failures out of every 100,000 deployments."
"In addition, most of these field ruptures occurred in regions of the country with high heat and high levels of absolute humidity," he said.
There have been no fatalities due to defective passenger-side airbags, Kennedy said. Also, there have been far fewer field ruptures involving passenger airbags — just 21 total reported instances in the U.S. to date. Most of those occurred in vehicles subject to prior recalls.
Takata is ramping up production of replacement parts. In May, it produced approximately 700,000 replacement kits.
By September, it expects to be producing 1 million per month.
It is also working with other inflator suppliers to further increase production of replacement inflators.
John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, will tell Congress that "our members have gone far beyond what the law requires" in the Takata recall.
"Importantly, they are working closely with their dealer networks to ensure that dealers have the capacity to service vehicles with open recalls," Bozzella said in written testimony.
Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, will give lawmakers an update on how its members are working to improve consumer participation in recalls. The alliance is conducting research into what motivates consumers to participate in a recall and get their vehicles fixed.
The initiative includes focus groups with dealership service managers to learn more about "real-world consumer responses as well as efforts proven effective in increasing participation rates."
Bainwol said the "Takata airbag inflator recall is unprecedented in size, scope and the number of affected manufacturers. It requires ongoing and coordinated attention from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind will give consumers the following advice, according to his written testimony: "If a vehicle has an open recall, consumers should call their dealer to arrange for a replacement airbag as soon as one is available."
Edmunds says: A major message during today's hearing will be that it is absolutely critical for consumers to take action and get any affected vehicles into the dealership for the repair.