GM asks NHTSA to let it skip recalling 6M trucks with Takata airbags

General Motors is seeking to avoid recalling of millions of trucks and SUVs equipped with Takata airbag inflators that are known to spew shrapnel at drivers and passengers in the event of a crash.

The automaker filed its latest petition—it’s filed an exemption petition for the same recall since 2016—this year, which the NHTSA made public this week and The Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday. GM argued its inflators from Takata are unique to the 6 million-plus trucks and SUVs they’re installed in. An agreement between Takata and the U.S. government created mandatory safety recalls being phased in over time and by region to replace all faulty airbag inflators. Although GM presented evidence to show its Takata inflators are safe, the Japanese company said the GM components were also defective in the same 2015 agreement.

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The cost of the recall to GM will be around $1.2 billion—a costly sum for the automaker.

Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said the NHTSA needs to do its job and mandate GM initiate the recall to take any risk of exploding airbag inflators off of the roads for good.

The vehicles GM would need to recall this year, per the Takata agreement, are the 2010-2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD models, Silverado and Sierra light-duty pickups from 2010-2013, 2010-14 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban SUVs, the 2010-14 Cadillac Escalade SUV, and the 2010-14 GMC Yukon. More would come at a later date, including older models.

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The problem with Takata airbag inflators comes from the use of ammonium nitrate, which creates a small explosion to inflate the airbags in the event of a crash. However, research showed repeated hot and cold cycles, and exposure to humidity, degrade the chemical. Thus, when the airbag inflates, the inflator and canister used to contain the explosion erupts and fire metal pieces at vehicle passengers. The defect has been linked to at least 24 deaths and 200 injuries.

GM said it tasked Northrop Grumman to test 4,270 inflators, which were subject to artificial humidity and exploded. None of the inflators exhibited bad deployments, though the tests noted abnormally high pressure in one 2007 Silverado.

The public can comment on the petition with the NHTSA through July 18. A link to provide comment is here here.