AP Analysis: Most automakers slow to fix dangerous air bags

A government effort to speed up recalls of more than 21 million of the most dangerous Takata air bag inflators is falling short, according to an analysis of completion rates by The Associated Press.

Nearly 10 million inflators with the highest risk of rupturing remained in use as of March 31, the latest documents filed by 10 automakers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show. That makes it likely that automakers won’t meet the government’s Dec. 31 deadline to finish the recalls, most of which began in mid-2015.

Defective Takata air bag inflators can hurl shrapnel at drivers and passengers involved in a crash. At least 18 deaths have been reported worldwide, including 12 in the U.S. Inflators with a greater risk of rupturing, deemed “Priority One” by NHTSA, are older, are of a type more prone to failing, or they’ve been in high humidity areas for many years. Just last week, Florida authorities were investigating whether an exploding inflator in an older Honda Accord killed a 34-year-old mother of three near Tampa.

Of NHTSA’s 15 highest-priority recalls, 10 had completion rates below 50 percent on the latest quarterly reports from automakers. In one recall of Ford Ranger pickups, the completion percentage was only 1.1 percent. In six recalls, fewer than one-third of the inflators had been replaced.

“The long and short of it is the recall is failing,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, a frequent NHTSA critic. Florida has more than 3 million recalled inflators with only about one-third replaced, according to Nelson’s office.

Overall, 46 million inflators have been recalled as of June 23. The government says automakers have replaced 16 million, about 40 percent. But more recalls are coming, which will put a further strain on car companies, dealers and owners to get the repairs done.

NHTSA say it’s “deeply concerned” that some automakers have low completion rates. In a 2015 order, NHTSA threatened fines against automakers who don’t…

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