According to a New York Times article published yesterday, two decades ago automakers, including General Motors (GM), chose to purchase cheaper airbags from a Japanese supplier, Takata. GM gave its then current airbag supplier, (a Swedish-American company) Autoliv a chance to keep its lucrative business if they would match Takata's price for an airbag, which cost about one-third less.
Autoliv tested Takata's airbag and determined that it relied on a dangerous volatile chemical compound - ammonium nitrate - which causes the airbag to expand explosively. Autoliv refused to use the cheaper ammonium nitrate in their airbags because testing revealed "that when the airbag was detonated, the gas is generated so fast, it blows the inflater to bits". Autoliv refused to compromise on safety and lost its GM account to Takata 20 years ago.
Ammonium nitrate and pure callous greed are the reasons for the largest auto safety recall in history. Available studies of ammonium nitrate from more than 20 years ago warned of its volatility when exposed to moisture or temperature changes. The NYT reports: "At least 14 people have been killed and more than 100 have been injured by faulty inflaters made by Takata. More than 100 million of its airbags have been installed in cars in the United States by General Motors and 16 other manufacturers."
The NYT ironically notes that we are still exposed to an unnecessary risk. "Even with the record recall. deadly accidents and research critical of ammonium nitrate, Takata continues to manufacture airbags with the compound-and automakers continue to buy them." Don't be surprised--think asbestos, tobacco, and the like. Worse, airbag safety design, according to this NYT article, is set by a trade association of automakers, not the federal government. Why, you ask? Can we trust the automakers with our safety given this track record?
If you have been injured by an airbag, call Ron Burke at 212-808-8008 for a free consultation.