Center for Auto Safety Formally Objects to GM Petition to Avoid Takata Airbag Inflator Recall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – THURSDAY, MAY 10
Contact: Michael Brooks, 202-328-7700 mbrooks@autosafety.org            

Center for Auto Safety Formally Objects to GM Petition to Avoid Takata Airbag Inflator Recall

Washington, D.C. — The Center for Auto Safety, the nation’s premier independent non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy, has submitted comments to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration objecting to General Motors Petition for Inconsequentiality regarding GMT900 Takata airbag inflators. (Docket NHTSA 2016-124). The Center’s comments are on behalf of our members and the millions of consumers staring down the barrel of an unrepaired Takata airbag inflator in a GM vehicle.

“Petitions for inconsequentiality should be reserved for items that are just that – inconsequential,” said Jason Levine, the Center’s executive director. “The process for petitioning for relief from the responsibility to remove millions of potential hand grenades, with their pins already pulled, in the dashboards and steering wheels of pickup trucks and SUVs across the United States should be an open and transparent one – allowing for data to be reviewed in a timely fashion by those who put consumer interests above corporate profits. Neither of those conditions have been met in this case.”

While NHTSA and GM perform this deferral and delay ballet, consumers are left to wonder if the airbag in their vehicle is a threat to the safety of themselves and other vehicle occupants.  On March 31, 2018, NHTSA denied GM’s request for deferral of the agency’s decision on GM’s petitions for relief, yet this denial was virtually meaningless, as no decision has been reached by the agency after a year and a half. Thousands of complaints have been submitted to NHTSA regarding GM’s refusal to remedy these vehicles, signaling great concern amongst owners.  GM is not providing loaners to owners of GMT900 vehicles to alleviate their entirely legitimate fears while it tests these inflators and continues to delay a recall remedy. 

NHTSA has continually failed to act in a timely manner on these GM petitions regarding this potentially deadly defect, revealing GM’s inconsequentiality petitions, test results, and related materials to the public months after receipt, at times only days before public comments were due.  This practice effectively serves as a grant of GM’s request for a deferral of decision and unnecessarily puts consumers in harm’s way. The agency’s statements to the contrary, claiming the deferral has been denied, are simply not consistent with its actions.    

GM’s petition rests on the company’s analysis of the GMT900 Takata airbag inflators, which concluded they were safe enough to negate the need for a recall. Yet, GM’s analysis failed to consider multiple factors that might contribute to future inflator failures, putting consumers at risk. In its submission, the Center lays out ten specific recommendations for data and additional quality measures that would be necessary to determine whether to grant GM’s petition and relieve GM of its responsibility to recall millions of GMT900 inflators. These recommendations included:

  • Showing results of improved accelerated life testing that demonstrates such testing is suitable for estimating safe inflator operation over vehicle life;
  • Showing that all manufacturing and composition of inflator mechanical and chemical components are within tolerances, and that there are no unresolved sourcing or quality control issues, particularly of the propellant material, and no unresolved engineering design or manufacturing issues.
  • Demonstrating that quality standards for chemical formulation and manufacturing were consistent with safety requirements.

“The danger in granting GM’s petition without a complete set of answers to our recommendations is clear: it would leave potentially millions of unrepaired ticking time bombs on the road with no ability to predict when they might explode,” Levine said.  “Moreover, there is no indication GM, if its petition is granted, has put a plan in place to remove all remaining inflators from service to prevent future tragedies should these inflators begin to fail. Before NHTSA decides to grant GM’s petition, these issues must be addressed in a manner that ensures future consumer safety and allows the agency to take decisive action if these inflators begin to fail.”

The Center’s comment concluded by stating: “Based on the uncertainty, fear, and economic harm the delay in recalling these potentially defective inflators has caused for consumers and based on the failure to submit the type of data that could conclusively assure all concerned parties that these Takata airbag inflators are safe, the Center for Auto Safety urges NHTSA to formally deny GM’s petition.”

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Regulations.gov Docket of GM Inconsequentiality Petitions and Related Materials

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