Takata Said to Plan to Replace 400,000 Air Bags Previously Fixed

Takata Corp. estimates about 10 percent of 4.1 million driver-side air bags already fixed because of a risk that they explode with too much force must be replaced again with a newer design, a person familiar with the plan said.

Those replacements will come after other air bags have been recalled in vehicles that haven’t already been repaired, Kevin Kennedy, Takata executive vice president for North America, said Tuesday in testimony to a U.S. House committee. He didn’t give specific volume estimates or a timetable for that final phase of repairs.

Takata last month bowed to pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and agreed to recall about 34 million air-bag inflators, the largest product-safety recall in U.S. history. There have been six deaths, five in the U.S., linked to a defect that can cause the bags to deploy with too much force and spray shrapnel in the passenger compartment. Previous recalls covered only about 17 million vehicles.

Kennedy testified that driver-side air bags that use a specific design for the propellant, described by its “batwing” shape, are the biggest concern. Those units will be replaced again in any model that received the design as part of an earlier recall repair, he said at the hearing.

Of the rest of the 4.1 million driver-side air bags already replaced, 500,000 were made by competitors for Takata and don’t contain the batwing-type propellant, said the person familiar with the plan, who asked not to be identified because the company hasn’t made the numbers public. About 3 million of the bags already replaced are a different Takata design considered safe by the Tokyo-based company, the person said.

Jamie Tully, a spokesman for Takata, declined to comment. NHTSA will validate which air bags need to be replaced again as part of the recall agreement with Takata, said Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for the agency.

Takata’s plan to replace some air bags again was reported earlier Thursday by Reuters.

Takata is phasing out the design using the batwing shape and by the end of this year will get 70 percent of its replacement parts from competitors, which also don’t use that design, Kennedy said Tuesday.