WASHINGTON – The U.S. auto safety watchdog said Wednesday it will hold an Oct. 22 public hearing on Takata Corp.’s massive air bag inflator recall, an event that could prompt regulators to take a stronger hand in efforts to eliminate the deadly defect from nearly 20 million vehicles.
In an announcement expected to be published in the Federal Register as early as Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the proceeding will include presentations by regulators, vehicle manufacturers, air bag inflator suppliers and organizations involved in testing the products.
“NHTSA may issue one or more administrative orders that would coordinate remedy programs,” the agency said. As a result, regulators could accelerate or prioritize the Takata remedy program to ensure that affected vehicles receive new inflators.
The inflators, which have been linked to at least eight deaths, can explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into vehicle compartments.
In one of the most complex consumer recalls in history, about 19.2 million vehicles containing 23.4 million air bag inflators have been recalled, affecting 11 different automakers.
Regulators said the October meeting would also help alert members of the public to the need to have their vehicles repaired.
“Helping the public understand the risks involved, what NHTSA and the auto industry are doing to address them, and how affected vehicle owners can take action to protect themselves and their families is an essential element,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement.