WASHINGTON – Two U.S. senators demanded Thursday that safety regulators issue a nationwide recall of automobiles with potentially defective airbags that can launch metal shards into occupants.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the recall should be immediate “regardless of where the car is registered.”
NHTSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The airbags are manufactured by Takata Corp and installed in vehicles from 10 automakers. At least four deaths have been linked to the problem, leading to the recall so far of 7.8 million vehicles in the United States since last year and more than 16 million globally since 2008.
The airbags are thought to inflate with too much force, causing parts to possibly spray into the faces and necks of occupants of the cars.
The recalls have focused on cars in hot, humid places, such as Florida, as investigators believe improperly sealed air bags are prone to problems in warmer regions.
“All states experience seasons of heat and humidity,” Blumenthal and Markey wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The senators also wrote that they were “alarmed and astonished” NHTSA has embraced a policy by Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. that car dealers should disable passenger-side airbags. The senators said that specific steps must first be taken that weigh the overall safety of such a move.
The senators also said the government should encourage manufacturers to provide rental cars at no cost to consumers if their cars cannot be immediately fixed.
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida made similar demands earlier this week.
Markey and Blumenthal also criticized NHTSA for failing to provide clear guidance to consumers on how and when to get their vehicles repaired.
The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association on Thursday urged its member dealers to immediately check their inventories to determine whether they have any of the recalled autos in stock “and take appropriate steps to have the defect remedied before offering it for sale.”