Takata dodges hearing, promises rapid cut of airbag chemical

Ammonium nitrate ‘appears to be one of factors’ in defective airbags recall, says company executive

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Japanese airbag supplier Takata will cut the production of ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical linked to tens of millions of defective airbags recalled in the history of the automotive industry, Takata Executive Vice President Kevin Kennedy said in a US Congress hearing on Tuesday.

Kennedy admitted that the chemical, ammonium nitrate is “one of the factors” in recalled airbags bursting with too much force and send deadly metal shrapnel inside the car.

The Takata executive told US lawmakers the company has alternate propellants with guanidine nitrate.

“We started production a year or two ago, and we’re continuing to ramp those up. I think overall you will see our production of ammonium nitrate go down rapidly," said Kennedy.

Kennedy also stated Takata would continue to use ammonium nitrate, though it would be a newer version of compound with more stability when exposed to moisture.

Takata remains the only manufacturer to use ammonium nitrate as a propellant in airbags which have been linked to at least six deaths and hundreds of injuries since 2003.

"They are still making an air bag with ammonium nitrate as a propellant without a desiccant and they're putting that in replacement vehicles and new vehicles," Texas Republican congressman Michael Burgess, chair of  of Tuesday’s House subcommittee said.

"It almost seems like there should be a warning label stamped on the car."

Due to the problem, more than 36 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide. In the US, many automakers, including Honda, Toyota, and GM, have recalled a total of 17 million vehicles. 

Kennedy said Takata has shipped 4 million replacement inflators without ammonium nitrate from other suppliers.

TRTWorld and agencies