WASHINGTON — A group of 10 automakers on Tuesday said several factors are responsible for the Takata airbag ruptures linked to massive recalls, 10 deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries.
The factors include exposure to humidity, design and the use of the chemical ammonium nitrate, which is used as a propellant.
The report by the Independent Testing Coalition and a team from Orbital ATK on behalf of automakers including Ford, GM and Honda found that certain inflators are affected by three factors, all of which contribute to the rupture of Takata airbag inflators. They are:
- The presence of pressed phase stabilized ammonium nitrate propellant without moisture-absorbing dessicant.
- Long-term exposure to repeated high temperature cycling in the presence of moisture.
- An inflator assembly that does not adequately prevent moisture intrusion in high humidity.
The analysis "yielded a root cause," said Bob Wardle, senior director of Technology Programs for Orbital ATK's Propulsion Systems Division, in a statement.
This is just the first phase of a multi-layered probe into defective Takata airbag inflators.
The next phase will focus on the performance of all inflators that are being used as replacement parts for the current recalls and how they are expected to perform.
A Takata spokesman told Edmunds the group's findings "are consistent with Takata's own testing and that of the Fraunhofer Group, which continue to support the initial findings that age and long-term exposure to a climate of persistent heat and high absolute humidity were significant factors in the small number of inflators that have malfunctioned.
"We fully cooperated with ITC to support their analysis, and we will continue to work closely with them, NHTSA and our customers to take aggressive actions that advance vehicle safety."
A separate report on Tuesday from the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee found "widespread manipulation of airbag inflator test data by Takata employees, with some occurring after recalls began."
The committee reviewed thousands of Takata documents and e-mails dating back more than a decade.
"These new documents speak for themselves," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the panel's ranking member, in a statement. "There is no doubt in my mind that Takata failed to prioritize the safety of its products."
Edmunds says: These reports serve as a reminder that consumers owning recalled vehicles should have their Takata inflators replaced. Consumers can check the VIN Lookup Tool at Safercar.gov or contact their dealer for the latest information.