Tesla to recall over 14,000 Model S cars in China amid industry-wide crackdown on exploding airbags

Tesla is recalling 14,213 Model S vehicles produced between 2014 and 2016 over defective airbags that could blow up and send shrapnel into the driver’s and front seat passenger’s faces, a Chinese watchdog has said.

The measure is a part of an industry-wide recall of Takata airbags, whose safety woes have been plaguing the automotive industry since at least 2013.

The company, which at one point held 20 percent of the airbag market, went bankrupt in 2017 after recalling more than 100 million cars, including 70 million in the US. It was taken over by car parts maker Key Safety Systems (KSS).

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China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said the electric car maker “filed a recall plan” with the watchdog and has embarked on recalling imported Model S vehicles since January 10. The vehicles affected by the recall were manufactured from February 4, 2014 to December 9, 2016. Tesla would replace the airbags, which are said to deteriorate with time, after notifying the owners by email.

Takata used ammonium nitrate to inflate its airbags, which was found to degrade after long-term exposure to moisture and fluctuating temperatures. The defect may cause the airbag to explode and hurl debris from its metal canister into the car. The company claimed that it had not discovered the fault until 2008. However, it was reported that Takata has been aware of the issue since at least 2004, after an airbag fitted in a Honda Accord vehicle blew up and injured a driver in the US.

At least 23 deaths have been linked to the defect, with the latest one reported in Malaysia in May of last year. Around 180 people have been injured worldwide.

READ MORE: Explosive risk: Takata recalls almost 34 mn cars in US due to faulty airbags

In its recent safety update, Tesla announced that it would be recalling front passenger airbags in some Model S cars produced between 2014 and 2016, starting in January. It is a follow-up on a similar policy Tesla implemented with respect to the Model S vehicles produced in 2012 and 2013. The schedule for the recall was set by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but Tesla said that, like with all its previous recalls, the latest one would apply globally, “including in countries where local regulators have not required a recall.”

Apart from Tesla, an array of prominent car manufactures fell victim and continue to suffer losses from the airbag failure, including BMW, Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, Lexus, and others.

It’s not the first time Tesla has recalled cars in China. In April of last year, the Chinese regulator said that the automaker would recall 8,898 Model Ss built before 2016 to replace a power steering bolt.

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