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The news today is full of scary headlines, like “Some New Cars Still Include Defective Airbags,” and while that’s certainly both true and unnerving, a Wired article is arguing that putting the air bags in new cars makes a certain amount of sense.
To be fair, it’s not just Wired. Despite the headlines, many articles written on the topic and the NHTSA seem to come to the same conclusion: It isn’t ideal, but it’s the best solution right now. To understand why, we need to understand what the recall is all about.
Takata, which supplies 14 automakers with airbags, including Audi and Volkswagen, was found to have produced airbags whose explosive chemicals degraded over time, turning them into more of a grenade than a pillow.
The catch is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that this problem only occurs after six years (this is an expedient simplification, read above articles for more), so until then, as far as we know, they work.
That being the case, and due to the fact that the supply of new airbags is limited, the recalls are prioritizing the cars that pose the greatest risk, i.e. older cars. With a recall plan that’s supposed to last until 2019, new cars with acceptable-for-now airbags will theoretically have the defective parts replaced well before they, as it were, expire.
What Wired’s article fails to go into, though, is that dealers aren’t required to tell buyers about the airbags or the coming recall, which is one of the bigger complaints from critics. Recalls are difficult to implement and irritating, so cars with dangerous air bags might slip through the cracks, and the owners could feasibly never know, or have the surprise sprung on them.
At any rate, what these articles reveal is that the situation is more nuanced than it may at first appear.