WASHINGTON -- General Motors has asked U.S. auto safety regulators for a one-year delay of a planned recall of about 1 million full-size pickups and SUVs equipped with passenger-side airbag inflators made by troubled Japanese supplier Takata Corp.
The inflators in the GM vehciles were to be included in a large batch of the parts set to be declared defective by Takata on Dec. 31, 2016, setting the recall process in motion. GM filed a petition on Sept. 2 asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to include the roughly 980,000 GM trucks in a later defect report by Takata, due Dec. 31, 2017.
GM says the one-year deferral will allow the automaker and Orbital ATK, a research firm working with GM and other automakers to study Takata’s inflators, to finish a long-term aging study to better understand the service life of the parts. That study is scheduled to conclude in August 2017.
The automaker says postponing the recall process by a year won’t put drivers at risk. In a statement, a spokesman for the automaker said field and lab testing indicates the inflators will “likely perform as designed until at least Dec. 31, 2019.”
GM says about 44,000 of the passenger-side inflators have deployed in the field without a rupture. Likewise, no ruptures were observed in lab tests of 1,055 additional inflators from the oldest models in the affected population, GM said.
“GM is taking a systematic, engineering-based approach to better understanding the performance of Takata inflators installed in GM vehicles, and GM continues to share this information with NHTSA on a regular basis,” the company spokesman said.
The requested deferral covers pickups and SUVs based on the popular GMT900 platform from the 2007-12 model years, including the Chevrolet Silverado, Tahoe and Suburban, Cadillac Escalade as well as the GMC Sierra and Yukon. The trucks are equipped with passenger-side Takata airbag inflators using ammonium nitrate propellant that lacks a drying agent, known as a desiccant.
This is apparently the first time an automaker has made a formal petition for a delay since the expanded Takata recall process began. NHTSA, however, granted BMW an extension for a Takata recall last spring after the automaker had quality problems with replacement inflators it was lining up.
Defective Takata inflators that can explode in a crash have been linked to 15 deaths, including 10 in the U.S., and more than 100 injuries, prompting the largest and most complex auto recall effort in U.S. history.
In May, NHTSA set in motion a plan for Takata to recall all ammonium nitrate inflators without a desiccant in phases through the end of 2019. The expansion covered around 35 million passenger-side inflators on top of the roughly 29 million already under recall at the time. The order requires Takata to file defect reports covering the additional 35 million passenger-side inflators in batches on Dec. 31 of each year through 2019. Its first report was filed last May.
GM’s petition is set to be officially published on Sept. 20, kicking off a 14-day public comment period. NHTSA has until Nov. 16 to approve or deny the petition.