The largest and most complex automotive recall in U.S. history may be getting even larger.
Auto safety regulators are considering whether to recall an additional 70 million to 90 million Takata Corp. airbag inflators, according to a report from Reuters. Millions of the inflators are already under recall because they can explode while inflating airbags, sending metal fragments into a vehicle's passenger compartment, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The move could cost the company billions of dollars and slow down the already arduous replacement process.
In a statement to Reuters, Takata Corp. said it is “cooperating fully with regulators and our automotive customers and continues to take aggressive action to advance vehicle safety.”
At issue is the ammonium nitrate used to make Takata's airbag inflators, according to Reuters. The wire service noted as many as 120 million of the company's inflators in the U.S. may contain the “volatile chemical.”
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is still investigating the manufacturer.
“This issue will take years to resolve,” spokesman Gordon Trowbridge told Reuters.
In January, federal safety regulators announced the number of deaths linked to Takata inflators rose to nine after a South Carolina man's death was attributed to a defective inflator, according to The Associated Press.
The man, 52-year-old Joel Knight, drove a vehicle with an air bag inflator that was not part of the recall, the wire service reported.
Knight was driving a 2006 Ford Ranger on a rural road in Kershaw County, South Carolina, when he struck a cow, then a fence and died.
“He died after metal fragments from the driver's inflator impaled his neck,” the AP reported. “According to a law firm representing Knight's family, the crash was moderate and otherwise survivable.”
The current recall involves 14 vehicle manufacturers and more than 28 million vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Most recently, Daimler AG announced more than 840,000 Mercedes-Benz cars and Daimler vans were under recall because of possibly defective Takata airbags.
In November, Takata Corp. agreed to pay a $70 million civil penalty because of the defective inflators. The company also agreed to phase out the inflators in question by the end of 2018.
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