TOKYO (Bloomberg) -- The world's biggest automakers have fixed a fraction of almost 8 million cars recalled for Takata airbags, providing fuel for a Senate committee the grilled industry executives today for their handling of the crisis.
About 6 percent of affected vehicles recalled by 10 carmakers have been replaced, according to Bloomberg News calculations based on figures provided to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other estimates have put the total number of Takata-related recalls since 2008 at more than 10 million in the U.S. and more than 16 million globally.
Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., which have called back the most cars, each disclosed lower remedy rates in letters on NHTSA’s website on Wednesday.
The slow progress underscores the challenge still ahead for the industry and its regulator to protect motorists whose cars are equipped with air bags linked to five deaths. NHTSA demanded automakers broaden their campaigns nationwide two days before the hearing, after months of allowing limited, regional recalls.
Takata said the expanded callback could risk lives by aggravating a shortage of replacement parts.
“This looks unacceptably low, especially because a large majority of the cars were recalled some time ago,” Ashvin Chotai, managing director of researcher Intelligence Automotive Asia, said by phone. “I don’t expect them to have an easy time.”
Takata airbag inflators have injured or killed motorists by deploying with too much force, breaking apart metal parts within the airbag module and shooting them at passengers. Many of the vehicles affected are a dozen or more years old, complicating efforts to track down owners and determine how many of the cars are still in use.
Representatives from Honda, Takata, Chrysler Group LLC and NHTSA are scheduled to testify before a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing today.
Honda, leading all automakers with almost 5.1 million vehicles affected, meets with Takata daily to share inflator demand information and discuss supply, the carmaker told NHTSA in its letter dated Nov. 5.
The automaker made available or reimbursed owners for more than 3,000 loaner and rental vehicles in October and the first few days of November. Honda said it’s had no significant shortage of parts to repair vehicles.
Both Honda and Toyota said they’re exploring ways to obtain additional airbag inflators, including by reaching out to suppliers other than Takata. Autoliv Inc., TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. and Daicel Corp. compete with Takata.
Developing and producing a replacement inflator by an alternative supplier could take “a minimum of one year” and possibly longer if the parts need to be fine-tuned to specific vehicle characteristics, Toyota said in its letter.
Nissan Motor Co., the automaker with the third-most vehicles affected, said obtaining replacement inflators from other suppliers is “not feasible,” as the parts would require re-engineering and validation to ensure quality and safety.
General Motors Co. Ford Motor Co., BMW, Chrysler, Mazda Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. also have conducted recalls or service campaigns since April 2013. Ford told NHTSA the number of its vehicles was not available, while Chrysler requested confidential treatment of its information.
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru cars, has fixed 2,148 vehicles out of the 17,521 recalled as of Nov. 5, Mariko Ougi, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman for the company, said by e-mail. A filing describing the status of airbag repairs by Fuji Heavy wasn’t available on NHTSA’s website.