Millions of owners of vehicles equipped with Takata air bags may have to get repairs done more than once because of shortages of replacement parts and uncertainty over whether repair parts already installed are defective, auto industry officials and safety regulators said on Tuesday.
A House subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday as part of an investigation of problems with Takata air bags that have been linked to six deaths and one of the largest consumer product recalls in U.S. history.
Lawmakers are expected to look at when owners of affected vehicles, which could number as many as 34 million in the U.S., can be sure that their air bags are safe.
"Because of the size and scope of the recall, a replacement part may not be immediately available," said Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in written testimony ahead of the hearing.
Takata airbag recall
Owners may need to have Takata air bags replaced more than once
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaks about the Takata air bag inflator recall, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at the Transportation Department in Washington. Air bag maker Takata Corp. has agreed to declare 33.8 million of its inflator mechanisms defective, effectively doubling the number of cars and trucks that have been recalled in the U.S. so far. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 19: NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind (L) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (R) speak about the Takata air bag recall during a news conference at the Department of Transportation May 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. It was announced that the Takata Corp. has agreed to declare 33.8 million of its inflator mechanisms defective which will bring the number up to about 34 million autos, making it one of the largest consumer product recalls ever. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2014 file photo, Senate Commerce Committee member Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. displays the parts and function of a defective airbag made by Takata of Japan that has been linked to multiple deaths and injuries in cars driven in the U.S., during the committee's hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Government statistics released Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 show that automakers issued 803 recalls totaling almost 64 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, more than double the old record set a decade earlier. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
In this Dec. 22, 2014 photo, a woman checks out a new Honda City at a Honda showroom in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Six years ago, Honda began recalling Takata driverâs side air bags in the U.S. because they could inflate with too much force and spew shrapnel into the vehicle. But it wasnât until last month after a crash in Malaysia that killed a woman and her unborn child that Honda recalled driverâs side air bags in small cars from Asia and Europe. (AP Photo)
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 22, 2014, Honda cars are worked on at the service center in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Six years ago, Honda began recalling Takata driverâs side air bags in the U.S. because they could inflate with too much force and spew shrapnel into the vehicle. But it wasnât until last month after a crash in Malaysia that killed a woman and her unborn child that Honda recalled driverâs side air bags in small cars from Asia and Europe. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2014 file photo, Senate Commerce Committee member Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. displays the parts and function of a defective airbag made by Takata of Japan that has been linked to multiple deaths and injuries in cars driven in the US, during the committee's hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. The top Japanese auto safety official acknowledged Friday, Dec. 5 that Japan's recall system needs an overhaul to better respond to global problems highlighted by the debacle over Takata air bags that can explode. "The framework in place now doesn't allow for that," Masato Sahashi, director of the recall office at the transport ministry, said in a telephone interview. "Japanese people are very worried about the safety of their cars." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Child seats, manufactured by Takata Corp. are displayed at a Toyota Motor Corp.'s showroom in Tokyo Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. Takata, the Japanese air bag maker embroiled in a massive recall totaling some 12 million vehicles globally, says it's taking more special losses for new recalls and will sink deeper into the red for the fiscal year. Takata said Thursday it will record a 25 billion yen ($218 million) loss for the fiscal year through March 2015. It previously forecast a 24 million yen ($210 million) forecast. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Parts of pyro-electric airbag initiators lie in a production line at the international automotive supplier Takata Ignition Systems GmbH in Schoenebeck, Germany, Thursday, April 17, 2014. The Takata Corporation is a leading global supplier of automotive safety systems such as seat belts, airbags and child seats. The company has 46 plants in 17 countries around the world. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
The logo of the Toyota automobile company is seen on the window of a company showroom in the Indian capital New Delhi on May 13, 2015. Japanese auto giants Toyota and Nissan on May 13, 2015, said they were recalling 6.5 million vehicles globally in the latest chapter of an exploding airbag crisis linked to several deaths. The world's biggest automaker said its recall of five million vehicles affected 35 models globally produced between 2003 and 2007, while Nissan said it was calling back 1.56 million vehicles also due to faulty airbags made by embattled supplier Takata. AFP PHOTO / Chandan KHANNA (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
Japanese auto parts maker Takata's child car seats are displayed at a showroom in Tokyo on May 20, 2015. Takata is doubling a recall of US cars with potentially deadly airbags to a record nearly 34 million vehicles, sending the firm's shares plunging in Tokyo. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
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Automakers are concerned that a lack of available replacement parts might cause many consumers to ignore the recall.
The problem has taken on increasing urgency this year as Takata has continued to expand the list of potentially defective air bags.
The inflators in those air bags are prone to rupture and send shrapnel into vehicle occupants. They have been linked to hundreds of injuries, according to NHTSA.
Ten passenger-car manufacturers since 2008 have announced recalls involving ruptured inflators in Takata air bags, and their dealers have been replacing the affected parts as they have become available from the company and, more recently, other suppliers.
Takata last month said certain air bags that already have been repaired may need to have parts replaced a second time.
Another complication is that the recall involves both driver- and passenger-side air bags. Neither Takata nor NHTSA can say how many vehicles in total may be affected or how much overlap there may be.
Because a defect exists in both types of air bags, it means "we need two replacement inflators (and) the owner probably needs to make two trips to the dealer," NHTSA said Tuesday.
The House subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade will hear testimony from Takata executive Kevin Kennedy and representatives of two vehicle manufacturer trade groups. Also scheduled to appear is David Kelly, a former NHTSA acting administrator who was hired to lead an independent investigation by a coalition of the 10 automakers using Takata air bags.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)