Not Again! Toyota Recalls 1.4 Million Cars Due To Faulty Airbags
By The New York Times
Public concern about faulty automobile airbags spread to a second major supplier on Wednesday, after Toyota recalled 1.43 million Prius and Lexus models equipped with bags made by Autoliv, a big Swedish-American manufacturer.
Although no injuries have been reported from the problem, there have been incidents in which the Autoliv bags deployed spontaneously in parked vehicles, sending metal pieces of the inflater into the cars’ cabins.
The problem sounded ominously similar to issues with faulty airbags made by another major supplier, Takata, which have been linked to 14 known deaths and more than 100 injuries. Takata’s airbags have been the target of the largest safety recall in automotive history.
Fourteen automakers have recalled more than 60 million Takata airbags in the United States, and millions more worldwide.
Autoliv, based in Stockholm, provides airbags to most of the major auto companies and is supplying many of the replacement inflaters being fitted in cars affected by the Takata recalls. Autoliv and Takata, together with the American supplier TRW and the Japanese maker Daicel, provide four-fifths of the global supply of airbag inflaters.
“Inflaters are one of the most complex automotive components to manufacture,” said Scott Upham, chief executive of the automotive consulting firm Valient Market Research. Airbag makers need to have extensive experience in chemistry, explosives, as well as quality control, he said.
“This is the reason why there are so few inflater suppliers in the industry,” he said.
Autoliv’s problem also underscored the challenges of overseeing the work of subcontractors in the making of crucial auto safety equipment. The company on Wednesday said substandard welds on inflaters made by a subcontractor from 2010 to 2012 were responsible for the problems leading to Toyota’s recall on Wednesday.
The recall covered two models of Toyota hybrid vehicles, the Prius and the Lexus CT200h, from 2010 to 2012. They were equipped with Autoliv side-curtain airbags, which are fitted in the car’s side roof rails and meant to protect occupants in side-impact crashes.
Toyota did not name the airbag supplier when it announced the recall in Tokyo on Wednesday, but Autoliv later identified itself and said it was cooperating with the recall.
Autoliv stressed that its airbag defect had caused no known injuries or deaths. And it was quick to distance itself from Takata’s woes, which have involved driver and front-seat passenger airbags.