By James Raia
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states on its website that airbags in cars, trucks and RVs saved more than 50,000 lives in a 30-year span ending in 2017. Jerry Cox believes millions of drivers in the United States are still at serious risk.
A former consultant for Takata, the now-defunct Japanese automotive parts company, Cox has a stark warning. He says 12 million cars and pickup trucks from 19 manufacturers on U.S. roads have defective Takata-made airbags that still have not been replaced.
Cox discusses the details in his new book “Killer Airbags: The Deadly Secret Automakers Don’t Want You To Know.”
“Killer Airbags” details the events that led to the airbag scandal that rocked the automotive industry. Cox also criticizes a recent decision by current administration not to recall an additional 30 million newer-model cars with Takata airbags.
Ammonium nitrate, the chemical used in the airbags made and installed in 70 million cars in 19 different models by Takata, exploded in the defective airbags and led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious injuries, Cox states.
The airbags were eventually recalled in the largest consumer product recall ever, but 12 million cars still have these devices that still have not been replaced. Cox writes he warned the company to recall the devices completely in 2014, but it didn’t listen.
“Takata chose ammonium nitrate to inflate its airbags because it was vastly cheaper than more stable propellants,” Cox said. “They faked reports showing ammonium nitrate was suitable and lied about the danger until 2017 when the company was convicted of criminal fraud and went bankrupt.”
In 2015, federal regulators gave Takata until the end of 2019 to prove these “desiccated” inflators safe or to recall the 30 million affected 2018 and later-model vehicles.
Instead of seeking an independent assessment, the Trump Transportation Department secretly solicited an engineering study from the motor vehicle manufacturers who were responsible for pay for the recall. It decided in May 2020 not to recall those vehicles.
“The Transportation Department never asked the Takata engineers who designed those inflators whether they are safe,” said Cox. “All of those experts insist the inflators eventually will turn into hand grenades and that nobody should be driving a car with ammonium nitrate in their airbags.”
By that time, Cox hadn’t been consulting with Takata for a few years. In 2016, Cox viewed a gruesome image of Joel Knight on the internet. Knight hit a cow while driving his pickup truck. The accident was minor, but the Takata airbags deployed. The canister blew like a hand grenade sending a chunk of shrapnel the size of a hockey puck through the airbag and through Knight’s neck – killing him instantly.
Cox said he then vowed to tell the inside story of how Knight and now at least 23 others have been killed and more than 300 have been injured by Takata airbags.
The book is available on the Cox’s website, KillerAirbags.com, as well as on Amazon.com.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.