United States regulators have handed down a US$70 million (AU$97.5 million) fine to airbag manufacturer Takata as part of an agreement made with safety regulators that also includes discontinuing the use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant.
The agreement also includes a further US$130 million (AU$181 million) in fines should Takata be found in breach of a consent order, set out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Takata admitted that is failed to issue a timely recall for airbag inflators that posed a danger of harming occupants, due to the ammonium nitrate propellant, which could cause the airbag housing to rupture in an accident.
“Today, we are holding Takata responsible for its failures, and we are taking strong action to protect the traveling public,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement.
“We are accelerating Takata recalls to get safe air bags into American vehicles more quickly, ensuring that consumers at the greatest risk are protected, and addressing the long-term risk of Takata’s use of a suspect propellant.”
As part of Takata’s consent order, US regulators will have access to Takata’s internal operations over the next five years, to ensure the company abides by the terms of its phase out schedule.
A separate Coordinated Remedy Order has also been issued to Takata, and the 12 automakers affected by the faulty airbags, to establish a schedule for which replacement airbag inflators will be made available.
Takata’s airbag recall extends to 34 million cars globally, making it the largest recall action in history.
Takata will be required to phase out the use of ammonium nitrate propellant by 2018 and is unable to sign any new contracts that make use of the unsafe propellant.
Automakers have been tasked with identifying those vehicles most at risk from the defect, particularly vehicles in areas of high heat and humidity, and prioritising replacement parts accordingly.
Over 660,000 Australian vehicles are affected by the faulty airbag inflators, with selected Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Mazda, Honda, BMW, and Chrysler vehicles involved in the recall.
The respective manufacturers will attempt to contact owners of affected vehicles, however those wishing to know more can consult the Australian Competition and Consumer Council’s recall website, or contact their vehicle’s manufacturer for more information.