US auto safety investigators have opened a new probe into 30m vehicles built by nearly two dozen automakers with potentially defective Takata air bag inflators, a government document seen by Reuters showed.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Friday opened an engineering analysis into an estimated 30m US vehicles from the 2001 through 2019 model years. Automakers were alerted to the investigation, which is not yet public, the news agency reported.
The new investigation includes vehicles assembled by Honda, Ford, Toyota Motor, General Motors, Nissan Motor, Subaru, Tesla, Ferrari, Mazda, Daimler, BMW, Chrysler, Porsche, Jaguar Land Rover and others.
The 30 million vehicles include both vehicles that had the inflators installed when they were manufactured as well as some inflators that were used in prior recall repairs, NHTSA said in the document, according to Reuters.
Over the last decade, over 67m Takata air bag inflators have been recalled in the US, and more than 100m worldwide, in the biggest auto safety callback in history because inflators can send deadly metal fragments flying in rare instances. There have been at least 28 deaths worldwide, including 19 in the US, tied to faulty Takata inflators and more than 400 injuries, Reuters noted.
The 30m vehicles that are part of the new investigation have inflators with a “desiccant” or drying agent. According to the document, NHTSA said there had been no reported ruptures of vehicles on the roads with air bag inflators with the drying agent.
“While no present safety risk has been identified, further work is needed to evaluate the future risk of non-recalled desiccated inflators,” NHTSA said in opening its engineering analysis seen by Reuters. “Further study is needed to assess the long-term safety of desiccated inflators.”
The news agency noted NHTSA had said the cause of the inflator explosions tied to the recall of 67m inflators which can emit deadly fragments is propellant breaking down after long term exposure to high temperature fluctuations and humidity. The agency had required all similar Takata inflators without a drying agent to be recalled.
NHTSA did not immediately release a breakdown of how many vehicles per manufacturer were covered by the probe, Reuters said.
NHTSA said the investigation “will require extensive information on Takata production processes and surveys of inflators in the field”.
Earlier this year, NHTSA said, of the 67m recalled inflators, approximately 50m had been repaired or otherwise accounted for, the report added.