Tennessee company refuses to recall airbag inflators despite government request

Citing two deaths and several injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ordered ARC Automotive of Knoxville, Tennessee, to recall 67 million airbag inflators it says are dangerous. ARC is refusing, reports the Associated Press, setting up a legal fight.

In a letter posted Friday, the agency told ARC that it has tentatively concluded after an eight-year investigation that ARC front driver and passenger inflators have a safety defect. "Air bag inflators that project metal fragments into vehicle occupants, rather than properly inflating the attached air bag, create an unreasonable risk of death and injury," Stephen Ridella, director of NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation, wrote in a letter to ARC. But ARC responded that it no defect exists in the inflators, and that any problems are related to isolated manufacturing issues. The next step in the process is for NHTSA to schedule a public hearing. It could then take the company to court to force a recall.

ARC is effectively saying to the NHTSA: don't ask us, order us.

That said, this reminds me of the interesting side effects that some commentators pose as consequences of right-wing judicial meddling in culture wars. Enable random people sue women for having abortions? Perhaps they can sue companies for selling guns, too. Limit the authority of federal regulators to prevent them approving "dangerous" things you don't like? How about federal regulators can't tell them not to, either, and too bad if it explodes in your face.

Instead, we'll have lawsuits to protect us…

In a federal lawsuit filed last year, plaintiffs alleged that ARC's inflators use ammonium nitrate as a secondary propellant to inflate the air bags. … The explosion can blow apart a metal canister housing the chemical, sending metal shards into the cabin. Ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizer and as a cheap explosive, is so dangerous that it can burn too fast even without moisture present, the lawsuit says.

Which further reminds me that America's political class consists predominantly of lawyers.