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Takata just announced the largest auto recall in U.S. history

Last year was a record-setting year for auto recalls. Although the General Motors ignition switch scandal was the most prominent story, dozens of automakers issued recalls for safety defects in their own vehicles.

There were more vehicles recalled in the U.S. in 2014 than during any other year since the invention of the automobile. But even as we are less than halfway through 2015, a recently announced recall will likely steal the spotlight. Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata has recently agreed to recall 34 million vehicles in the United States over concerns about exploding air bags. When all is said and done, this will likely be the largest vehicle recall in U.S. history.

As readers may remember, Takata started facing significant criticism and scrutiny last year about allegations that its air bags could inflate too violently and explode. This, in turn, could send small metal fragments (from the air bag components) shooting into the cab of the vehicle like shrapnel from an exploding bomb. So far, six deaths have been linked to the defect, as well as more than 100 injuries.

Takata sells its airbags to major automakers, so the recall could include vehicles from 10 or more car companies, including Honda, Nissan and Chrysler. To make matters even worse, the problem is not a new one. Takata has been denying and minimizing allegations about exploding air bags for more than a decade.

Up until recently, the company has been trying to limit the number of vehicles it must recall. But earlier this week, the company said it would double the number of vehicles it planned to recall in the U.S., possibly due to consistent pressure from safety regulators. Takata has also recently admitted that the defects are not just limited to manufacturing errors. Instead, their air bags may also suffer from design flaws.

With the mass production of automobiles on a global scale, it is reasonable to conclude that mistakes will be made and recalls will sometimes be necessary. But when automakers prioritize profits over human safety, their misplaced priorities lead to decades-long cover-ups and untold numbers of injuries and deaths. Such negligence is truly inexcusable.

Source: The New York Times, "Airbag Recall Widens to 34 Million Cars as Takata Admits Defects," Danielle Ivory and Hiroko Tabuchi, May 19, 2015

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