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NHTSA: Majority of vehicles with faulty Takata airbags unrepaired

In the U.S. alone, 46.2 million defective air bag inflators manufactured by Takata have been recalled for a potentially deadly fault. The inflators can explode with excessive force, breaking the airbag housing and causing pieces of metal and plastic to shoot like shrapnel throughout the cabin of the vehicle. The defect has been tied to at least 180 injuries and 16 fatalities worldwide.

Unfortunately, of those 46.2 million recalled parts, only about 15.8 million have been repaired, according to recent information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At least one senator is urging automakers to increase the pace. According to NHTSA's Takata air bag recall website, vehicles by 34 manufacturers contain the defective parts.

Why is it taking so long to get the recalled parts replaced?

Consumer compliance with auto part recalls is a challenge, but this recall has taken more time than most. One reason is that it is the largest recall in auto industry history. It affects an estimated 1 million vehicles worldwide, and Takata has been working for more than a year to obtain a financial sponsorship to help with the replacement costs.

Another major reason appears to be a lack of replacement parts. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida reported that some 8.8 million owners of affected vehicles received recall notices but were turned away from dealerships for lack of replacement parts. Takata says it has shipped 26 million replacement kits so far and has "dramatically increased" production of the kits.

In fact, one of the FAQs on NHTSA's website is whether owners should have their existing Takata airbag replaced with a newer version with the same defect.

The answer is yes, you should, even though the newer airbag will still need to be replaced later. The agency has unequivocal evidence that the age of the inflator is a critical factor in whether it will rupture. Replacing an older inflator makes it much less likely you will experience the issue.

NHTSA also urges owners not to disable their airbags while they await repairs. Frontal airbags like these save around 2,400 lives per year and only some of the Takata airbags are defective. Therefore, most of the airbags will end up performing properly during a crash. Alternatively, a disabled airbag will fail to protect you in any crash.

If your vehicle is affected by the Takata airbag recall, you may be frustrated that you haven't been able to get it repaired yet. Don't wait, and be persistent. It could save your life.

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