Ford Motor (NYSE:F) plans to ask federal safety regulators to exclude its vehicles from the latest expansion of the recall of airbag inflaters made by Japanese supplier Takata. Takata declared 2.7 million vehicles to have potentially defective inflators last week. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the petition will seek an exemption from the recall because Ford believes the issue is inconsequential.
New testing led to Takata to declare inflators potentially defective in Ford, Nissan and Mazda vehicles in some driver-side air bags built from 2012 through 2015. Ford said the issue covers 2.5 million of its vehicles, including the 2007-11 Ranger, 2006-12 Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, 2006-11 Mercury Milan, and 2007-10 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX.
Takata inflaters use ammonium nitrate to create a controlled explosion that rapidly inflates airbags in the event of a collision. This compound may become unstable after prolonged exposure to moisture and temperature fluctuations. Takata has used a variety of chemical agents to keep the propellant dry, but some combinations have showed a greater propensity to fail than others, causing the compound to combust suddenly.
Airbags that explode too violently can spray drivers or occupants with shards of metal and plastic. Takata air bag inflators have already been linked to 17 deaths, including 12 in the United States, and more than 180 injuries worldwide. The issue is the largest-ever auto-safety recall, covering 17 automakers. However, less than 35 percent of the previously recalled Takata airbag inflators in the United States have yet to be repaired.
Ford informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that its inflaters contain a chemical compound that has proved effective in preventing violent ruptures. According to Ford spokesman John Cangany, the automaker will file its petition to request permission “to continue testing and analyzing our inflators.” The automaker has 30 days to submit its petition, and the NHTSA will take public comment before making a decision.
Mazda also plans to file a petition to avoid the recall. The company said the issue impacts just 6,000 of 2007-09 B-series trucks that were built under a previous Ford partnership. According to the NHTSA, there have been no reported ruptures in the real-world or in testing.
The NHTSA said Nissan agreed to recall 515,394 2007-2011 Versa cars due to the inflator issue. Nissan said last week it would recall 627,000 Versa cars from the 2007-12 model years, including 515,000 in the United States “out of an abundance of caution.” Nissan reported that its testing of 895 inflators showed no ruptures, but one “exhibited an elevated internal pressure.”