This week Toyota and Nissan have announced the recall of a grand total of 6.5 million cars from around the world due to potentially faulty airbags produced by Takata, the Japan-based manufacturer. The recalls have been prompted by fears from the automakers that the airbags they installed have the potential to explode without warning, which could result in shrapnel from the car being propelled at both the driver and their passengers. This terrifying prospect has been enough to prompt one of the largest recalls in history, with Toyota alone asking for 5 million cars globally to be sent back, with Nissan asking for 1.56 million to be returned.
Whilst no accidents or arrangements have been reported as of yet, both Nissan and Toyota say they have been prompted to recall the vehicles for ‘investigative purposes’. The fear surrounding the issue though has come from a string of accidents involving Takata made airbags that have been linked to a number of accidents in Honda cars, at least six people have died in accidents that have been linked to this misfiring and dangerous car parts.
Since 2008 around 25 million vehicles using Takata airbags have been recalled by 10 different carmakers worldwide with Honda, Japans third largest car manufacturer behind Toyota and Nissan, apparently preparing to announce more recalls related to these airbags in the near future. Takata is facing a slew of lawsuits in Canada and the United States, and a potential regulatory probe to get to the bottom of how such dangerously faulty products could pass the already extensive safety checks regulators have enforced on the car industry.
But in reality Toyota and Nissan are just part of a long tradition of giant recalls by giant car manufacturers. Manufacturers have not always been so obliging in recalling faulty cars however, back in 1971 General Motors had to be given a firm push by the US government to ‘voluntarily’ recall 6.7 million vehicles after a number of V-8 powered general motors automobiles started displaying a worrying proclivity toward complete disaster involving a small rubber part of the engine mount inside these classic cars. These rubber rings would burn out and the engine mount would be dislodged, this would in turn lead to the fairly terrifying consequence of the whole engine breaking free and turning 90 degrees upward. This would, through a quite incredibly unfortunate twist of fate within the cars design, pull the throttle completely open, causing rapid acceleration. To further add to the potential for death and disaster this in turn would would also break the brake assistance device, and the car would be much more difficult to bring to a halt than normal. This malfunction, which sounds like it comes from the mind of a deranged stunt man on a hollywood film set, or a mad hit man wishing to engineer the death of a classic car collector, was described by Edward Cole, the apparently unflappable President of General Motors during this period, as no more dangerous that a flat tire. Luckily for American car drivers, the US Government took a somewhat different view and kindly requested that General Motors take it upon themselves to recall the engine twisting, throttle opening, brake breaking death traps back to the factories for a few adjustment.
The issue consumers, drivers, governments and manufacturers are facing with the Takata airbags may sound less dramatic, but it is in many ways no less dangerous, and it raises many questions about the Japanese car industry, who have acted as the standard bearers for quality, consistency and safety for many years. Here at car parts place we have been talking a lot about the supposed superiority of German car parts recently, and Germans everywhere will surely be laughing and smiling, if German have the capacity for such things, at the fact that their old rivals for reliability are taking quite a beating from this one little, but disastrous, piece of manufacturing oversight.