WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. Senators urged auto safety regulators to publicly name the makes and models of tens of millions of vehicles with potentially faulty Takata air bag inflators, according to a letter made public late on Thursday.
“There may still be 50 million airbags installed in vehicles whose owners not only have no idea, but also no way to find out, that they are driving a car containing potentially lethal airbags,” wrote Senators Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat.
On Wednesday, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed the Japanese air bag manufacturer would declare between 35 million and 40 million additional inflators defective by 2019, which will prompt automakers to recall vehicles with the inflators.
The 50 million inflators that could still be recalled include 27 million side air bags and 23 million frontal air bag inflators. As part of a November agreement with NHTSA, those vehicles must also be recalled by 2019 unless Takata can prove they are safe.
Takata must issue five separate defect reports starting May 16 and ending in 2019. Takata said the first report will cover 14 million of the 35 million to 40 million inflators being recalled. The second report is not due until Dec. 31 and subsequent reports are due in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas said automakers “will provide the information about the models and makes in the coming weeks.” He did not directly respond to the senators demands on the inflators that have not yet been recalled.
Takata spokesman Jared Levy declined to comment.
The senators want NHTSA to release regular updates regarding testing data on Takata airbags and their failure rates.
To date, 14 automakers have recalled 28.8 million Takata inflators in about 24 million vehicles. Three additional automakers are part of the expansion.
The latest recall means all Takata ammonium nitrate-based driver and passenger frontal air bag inflators without a chemical drying agent, known as a desiccant, will be recalled. But 23 million Takata frontal air bags with a desiccant have not been recalled.
When exposed to moisture, ammonium nitrate, which is used to inflate the air bag, can cause the inflator to rupture with deadly force, spraying shrapnel into vehicle occupants. The defect is linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide since 2008.
Takata said it is not aware of any ruptures in the inflators in the vehicles that are part of recall announced Wednesday.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernard Orr