Automakers Pick Company to Investigate Takata Air Bags

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -

A group of 10 automakers said Thursday they have selected engineering firm Orbital ATK to test air-bag inflators made by Takata that are tied to recalls involving millions of cars.

The automakers also said they have selected former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator David Kelly to manage and coordinate the testing. Kelly is currently a principal and CEO of Storm King Strategies, a strategic affairs and advocacy firm in Washington, D.C.

The automakers include BMW, FCA US LLC, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

The automakers, led by Toyota, have been working on a way to conduct independent testing on Takata air bags since late last year.

The joint statement issued by the manufacturers says they are launching an industrywide testing initiative designed to help supplement air-bag testing that Takata is doing.

Since 2008, the 10 automakers have had to recall about 17 million vehicles with Takata air bags that can rupture when they deploy, releasing fragments that can kill or seriously injure occupants.

In 2014, five automakers — BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Mazda — launched national recalls at the urging of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for defective driver-side air bags.

At least five people have died in the U.S. from accidents after Takata air bags ruptured and deployed with excessive force. Neither Takata, the automakers to which it sold air bags, nor NHTSA has been able to definitively determine the cause of the ruptures.

“Orbital ATK is one of the world’s leading engineering firms, and we are confident that their extensive expertise will help speed and advance the ongoing technical investigation of Takata airbag inflators,” the automakers said in their statement.

Charlie Precourt, vice president and general manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division, said the Dulles, Va.-based firm has more than 60 years of experience in energetic materials, propulsion technology and failure analyses on energetic systems.

“We look forward to providing a detailed technical analysis in support of enhanced public safety,” Precourt said.

Earlier this week, federal safety regulators ordered Takata to preserve all air-bag inflators removed through the recall process as evidence for an investigation and lawsuits.

The order also ensures that NHTSA has access to all data from the testing of those removed inflators.

“We have worked closely with NHTSA to reach a constructive solution on the preservation order,” Takata said in a statement earlier this week. “We believe the outcome is consistent with our commitment to the safety of the driving public. Determining the root cause of the inflator issues has been, and remains, our top priority, and we will fully support NHTSA’s engineering analysis.”