After consulting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2020, Volkswagen agreed to recall vehicles containing certain Takata phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate (PSAN) desiccated air bag inflators. Under the agreement, Volkswagen will recall desiccated Takata PSAN air bag inflators in select Beetle, Beetle Convertible, and Passat vehicles.
Question: What is this all about?
- The Takata air bag inflator recalls are the largest and most complicated automotive recalls in United States history, involving 19 vehicle manufacturers and approximately 67 million inflators in tens of million vehicles.
- The inflators recalled pursuant to a Consent Order with Takata and a Coordinated Remedy Order with affected vehicle manufacturers involved a chemical substance that inflates air bags called Phase-Stabilized Ammonium Nitrate (PSAN). This substance was found to degrade when exposed to high heat and humidity over time and potentially rupture and send metal shrapnel into vehicle occupant compartments.
- Later versions of PSAN inflators were manufactured with a desiccant (drying agent) to prevent this dangerous degradation. Approximately 56.1 million of these “desiccated” PSAN inflators were produced for the U.S. market. 23.2 million of the inflators were for frontal driver-side air bags, and 20.9 million inflators were for frontal passenger-side air bags. The remainder were side-impact inflators.
- These desiccated inflators were not scheduled for recall, but Takata and vehicle manufacturers were given until December 31, 2019, to provide NHTSA with information about their safety so that NHTSA could make a future determination about whether such inflators should be recalled.
- Among the information submitted to the agency were reports from TK Global, and the Independent Testing Coalition (a consortium of vehicle manufacturers). Reports from both entities are available on NHTSA’s Takata Recall Spotlight webpage. A report from Exponent was also submitted to the agency.
Question: What did the information show?
- The information showed that desiccated PSAN inflators are generally not as susceptible to degradation as the inflators already subject to recall.
- While data shows that none of the currently unrecalled desiccated PSAN inflators pose an imminent risk to safety in the short term—even in the highest risk environments—data shows that some inflators may present a risk in such environments several years from now.
Question: I am seeing low year estimates (for a predicted 1 in 10,000 chance of failure when deployed) in the Independent Testing Coalition’s report. Are these inflators also being recalled?
- In its report, the Independent Testing Coalition also included data on certain non-desiccated PSAN inflators—including the PSPI-L and the PSDI-5. Those inflators have already been recalled.
Question: What is NHTSA doing in response to the information?
- The information received thus far indicates that inflators in certain older Volkswagen Beetles may pose a safety risk starting several years from now.
- NHTSA carefully reviewed the information submitted to it, and following consultation with the agency, Volkswagen committed to recalling desiccated Takata PSAN air bag inflators in select Beetle, Beetle Convertible, and Passat vehicles in phases depending upon their risk profile. The inflators in these vehicles have been identified as posing a higher risk than others.
- While other inflators show a significantly longer estimated safe useful life, NHTSA will continue to monitor the performance of these inflators. Further, the Independent Testing Coalition has agreed to pursue a monitoring and testing plan to gather additional data concerning the performance of the desiccant in preventing degradation.
- As NHTSA learns more about the performance of these inflators, we will not hesitate to act in the interest of safety.
Question: When will repair parts be available?
- Volkswagen will recall vehicles by filing defect notices for three separate groups of vehicles. These defect reports begin the recall process for vehicles in the respective group. The availability of repair parts depends on which of the three groups a vehicle is in. Parts are expected to be provided to dealers after the submission of each defect report.
- Older Beetles and Beetle Convertibles (Model Years 2012-2014) are in Group 1. Volkswagen will file a defect report for these vehicles by December 31, 2020.
- Group 2 includes Model Year 2015-2016 Beetles and Beetle Convertibles. Volkswagen will file a defect report for these vehicles by January 1, 2023.
- Group 3 includes Model Year 2017-2019 Beetles and Beetle Convertibles, as well as 2011-2014 Passats. Volkswagen will file a defect report for these vehicles by January 1, 2025.
Question: Why are Model Year 2011-2014 Passats, which are among the oldest vehicles in these recalls, not being recalled until 2025?
- The inflators installed in those vehicles were used as “like-for-like” repair parts in the recalls of non-desiccated Takata PSAN inflators. Those inflators are newer and therefore lower risk.
Question: Will vehicles made by other affected manufacturers be recalled?
- That remains to be determined. For the time being, the inflators in the Volkswagen vehicles scheduled for recall have been identified as posing a higher risk than others. NHTSA will base decisions about future potential recalls upon data acquired by the agency.
Last updated February 3, 2021