The Takata airbag recall was the biggest automotive safety recall ever, with more than 67 million inflators recalled in the United States, covering a huge range of makes and models. There are at least 52 million vehicles out there now with a different airbag design, from a completely different company, that are on the verge of a recall.
The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration held a fairly rare public meeting yesterday to discuss its initial decision to recommend this massive recall as another indication that this is maybe happening.
While we’re at it, GM presented its counter-proposal to the UAW while a greater strike clouds Detroit’s otherwise sunny prospects. Tesla lowered its prices, again. And the California 300 is this weekend!
Ok, let’s do this fam.
The Delphi/Autoliv/ARC Massive Recall That Might Be Coming
Why is this happening again? Didn’t we just have a giant airbag recall? What’s going on here? This is an entirely new recall, covering different vehicles, with airbags from a few companies that are not Takata.
Some background: airbags are a key safety device and have been required in cars since the 1990s. When a vehicle has a crash at a certain speed a signal is sent to the airbag’s electronic control unit and it inflates the airbag by igniting a propellant that fills the bag with a gas. This has to happen extremely fast and creates a great deal of force.
If that system is compromised the occupants could be sprayed with shrapnel, which obviously compounds the damage caused by the initial crash. Here’s how NHTSA describes what’s going on with these airbags in its initial report:
Based on its investigation, NHTSA believes that ruptures may result from the weld slag produced by the friction welding manufacturing process. Should weld slag of a sufficient size become dislodged, it can cause a blockage of the inflator exit orifice when the air bag deploys. A blockage of sufficient size will cause an over pressurization and rupture of the inflator, leading to the potential forced propulsion of shrapnel or metal fragments from the inflator into the passenger compartment. Additional inflator ruptures are expected to occur in the future, risking more serious injuries and deaths, if they are not recalled and replaced.
So far there have been seven confirmed ruptures with these airbags, leading to one fatality and multiple facial injuries. At the hearing, the son (pictured above) of Marlene Beaudoin, who was killed when an airbag in her Chevy Traverse ruptured, spoke. You can watch the whole hearing here.
“The magnitude of suffering caused by that inflator not being recalled is exponential,” Tarvis told the hearing, noting Beaudoin had 10 children and he assumed responsibility for six siblings.
“More moms don’t need to die, more kids don’t have to be raised by their siblings.”
Here’s another important piece from the Reuters report:
ARC vice president Stephen Gold opposed a recall, telling the hearing the data and extensive testing suggested the seven incidents linked to the inflators were “isolated” and “not indicative of a systemic defect.”
Gold added that setting such a low threshold for a recall demand – seven incidents out of 52 million vehicles – “is unprecedented in the history of NHTSA… and will have deep consequences for the auto industry.”
NHTSA said the more appropriate context for the seven incidents was not 52 million vehicles but 2.6 million inflators estimated to have deployed to date. Agency officials said the odds of a serious injury were one in 370,000 deployments of the inflators.
This is a real: Glass half-full/glass will send deadly shards into your face kind of situation.
I don’t know for sure what will happen, but here’s the list of automakers involved, with vehicles built between 2000 and 2018 being included:
The subject inflators were incorporated into air bag modules used in vehicles manufactured by 12 vehicle manufacturers: BMW of North America, LLC, FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors LLC, Hyundai Motor America, Inc., Kia America, Inc., Maserati North America, Inc., Mercedes-Benz USA LLC, Porsche Cars North America, Inc., Tesla Inc., Toyota Motor North America, Inc., and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
Airbags are such a generic part that they cover the whole range of vehicles from Audi eTrons to Kia Optimas.
Confusingly, the airbags were produced by both Delphi Automotive Systems and ARC Automotive (on a license). Delphi is now owned by Autoliv, so it’s not clear what the best shorthand is for this specific recall if it comes, but given that most of the airbags were manufactured by ARC I think the “ARC Airbag Recall” is probably the most accurate?
The agency is taking public comments through early December and will then make a ruling on the necessity of a recall.
GM Offers New Deal, UAW Trolls Everyone
UAW President Shawn Fain is a little bit of a troll, right? Just a little. He’s having fun. We’re all having fun.
This “The Bachelor” meme is indicating that more strikes are probably coming (those are the roses, I guess?). Basically, every Friday afternoon Fain has a livestream and announces more strikes.
Unlike Ford, which has tended to show its counteroffers, we haven’t seen the most recent GM offer, but GM did send this statement to The Detroit News:
“We can confirm that we provided a counter offer to the UAW’s most recent proposal — our sixth since the start of negotiations,” GM spokesperson David Barnas said in a statement. “We believe we have a compelling offer that would reward our team members and allow GM to succeed and thrive into the future. We continue to stand ready and willing to negotiate in good faith 24/7 to reach an agreement.”
Will the trash can make another appearance? Yeah, probably.
Tesla Lowers Price, Again
I guess my TMD about Chinese automaker BYD outpacing Tesla really struck a nerve because Tesla just announced price cuts for the… I don’t know, 900th time? I’ve lost count.
All automakers do this, but traditional car companies sell through dealers and generally use incentives to raise and lower the prices of their cars to balance volume and profits. Because of Tesla’s direct sales model, Elon Musk can just go out and announce price cuts and everyone gets excited. It’s pretty smart.
The base Model 3 and Long Range variants received a $1,250 discount. The base now starts at $40,630 with shipping and the Long Range at $47,630 with shipping. The Model 3 Performance, with a $2,250 price cut, starts at $52,630 with shipping.
Tesla trimmed $2,000 off the Model Y Long Range, which now starts at $50,130 with shipping, and also the Performance trim, which starts at $54,130 with shipping.
A year ago, the Model Y Long Range, which was the least expensive trim at the time, started at $67,440. Also at that time, the crossover did not qualify for the $7,500 federal EV tax incentive because Tesla had reached its quota. On Jan. 1 of this year, the Model Y and the Model 3 became newly eligible for a new version of the incentive.
That’s a huge decrease over time. In one year the Model Y Long Range has dropped in pure MSRP from about $67k to about $50k. Toss in a $7,500 tax credit (which it now qualifies for) and the total cost is closer to $43k delivered. I mean, that’s a smoking deal.
The California 300/Roval Are This Weekend
I know I’m not the only one who cares about motorsports, so I’m going to use this little bit of time I have here to let you know about some racing this weekend. In particular, the California 300 has just started. Here are some details:
Attendees can look forward to a jam-packed weekend featuring off-road racing, camping, and entertainment. Activities will range from the Off-Road Festival at the Start/Finish Midway, which will host race action and displays from top off-road brands, to the Main Stage, where race finishers will be showcased and event updates will be provided. The Start/Finish Midway is conveniently located near the entrance to the Stoddard Valley OHV area, just off the I-15 freeway. To get there, take the Outlet Center Drive exit, head east, and look to your right.
Check it out! I’ll be watching the NASCAR Charlotte Roval races this weekend (this is where NASCAR races on a modified Charlotte Motor Speedway that incorporates both the banked corners and the interior “road course.”).
If you need someone to root for, on Saturday at 3:00 PM (ET) on NBC you can watch our friend Parker Kligerman try to overcome a 1-point deficit to make it to the next round of the playoffs.
The Big Question
Recalls are expensive, complex, and time-consuming. If you’re a regulator do you ultimately go forward with this recall or are the risks low enough?
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