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Mazda Motor Corporation, Receipt of Petition for Determination of Inconsequentiality of Takata's Defect Information Report Filing Under NHTSA Campaign Number 17E-034 for PSDI-5 Desiccated Driver Air Bag Inflators and Decision Denying Request for Deferral of Determination

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Mazda, Takata

Mazda Motor Corporation, Receipt of Petition for Determination of Inconsequentiality of Takata's Defect Information Report Filing Under NHTSA Campaign Number 17E-034 for PSDI-5 Desiccated Driver Air Bag Inflators and Decision Denying Request for Deferral of Determination

Stephen P. Wood
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
16 November 2017


[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 220 (Thursday, November 16, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 53558-53561]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-24833]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2017-0092; Notice 1]


Mazda Motor Corporation, Receipt of Petition for Determination of 
Inconsequentiality of Takata's Defect Information Report Filing Under 
NHTSA Campaign Number 17E-034 for PSDI-5 Desiccated Driver Air Bag 
Inflators and Decision Denying Request for Deferral of Determination

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation.

ACTION: Notice of receipt of petition; notice of receipt of request for 
deferral and of decision denying request for deferral.

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SUMMARY: On July 10, 2017, Takata Corporation (``Takata'') filed a 
defect information report (``DIR'') in which it determined that a 
safety-related defect exists in certain phase-stabilized ammonium 
nitrate (``PSAN'') driver-side airbag inflators that it manufactured 
with a calcium sulfate desiccant, including inflators that it supplied 
to Ford Motor Company (``Ford''), Mazda North American Operations 
(``Mazda''), and Nissan North America Inc. (``Nissan'') for use in 
certain vehicles. Mazda's vehicles identified by Takata's DIR were 
designed by Ford and were built on the same platform and using the same 
airbag inflators as the affected Ford vehicles. Mazda has petitioned 
the Agency--in part through a purported joint petition with Ford (see 
DOCKET NO. NHTSA-2017-0093)--for a decision that because analysis of 
inflators installed in certain Ford vehicles does not demonstrate 
propellant-tablet density degradation or increased inflation pressure, 
and because there are design differences between the inflators 
installed in Ford and Mazda vehicles and an inflator variant installed 
in Nissan vehicles, the equipment defect determined to exist by Takata 
is inconsequential as it relates to motor vehicle safety in the Mazda 
vehicles affected by Takata's DIR. Mazda requests relief from its 
notification and remedy obligations under the National Traffic and 
Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 and its applicable regulations, and 
further requests that the Agency defer a decision on the petition until 
March 31, 2018 to allow Ford to complete certain analysis and testing.

DATES: The closing date for comments is December 18, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written data, 
views, and arguments regarding this petition for inconsequentiality. 
Comments must refer to the docket and notice number cited in the title 
of this notice and be submitted by one of the following methods:
     Internet: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the 
online instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, M-30, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Room W12-
140, Washington, DC 20590.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Room W12-
140, Washington, DC 20590 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time, 
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Facsimile: (202) 493-2251.
    You may call the Docket at (202) 366-9324.
    Note that all comments received will be posted without change to 
http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information 
provided. Thus, submitting such information makes it public. You may 
wish to read the Privacy Act notice, which can be viewed by clicking on 
the ``Privacy and Security Notice'' link in the footer of http://www.regulations.gov. DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement is available 
for review in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (65 FR 
19477-78).
    The petition, supporting materials, and all comments received 
before the close of business on the closing date indicated above will 
be filed in the docket and will be considered. Comments and supporting 
materials received after the closing date will also be filed and will 
be considered to the extent possible. When the petition is granted or 
denied, notice of the decision will also be published in the Federal 
Register pursuant to the authority indicated at the end of this notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: 
    For legal issues: Stephen Hench, Office of the Chief Counsel, NCC-
100, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590 (telephone: (202) 366-5263).
    For general information regarding NHTSA's investigation into Takata 
airbag inflator ruptures and the related recalls, visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/recall-spotlight/takata-air-bags.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

[[Page 53559]]

I. Background

    On November 3, 2015, NHTSA issued, and Takata agreed to, a Consent 
Order setting forth penalties, requirements, and performance 
obligations in connection with Takata's alleged failure to fully comply 
with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 as 
amended and recodified (the ``Safety Act''), 49 U.S.C. 30101, et seq., 
and its applicable regulations. Under the Consent Order, Takata is 
required to test its phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate (``PSAN'') 
inflators that contain a desiccant (a drying agent) in cooperation with 
vehicle manufacturers ``to determine the service life and safety of 
such inflators and to determine whether, and to what extent, these 
inflator types suffer from a defect condition, regardless of whether it 
is the same or similar to the conditions at issue'' in the Defect 
Information Reports (``DIRs'') Takata had filed for its non-desiccated 
PSAN inflators. Consent Order ] 28.
    In February 2016, NHTSA requested Ford's assistance in evaluating 
Takata calcium-sulfate desiccated PSDI-5 driver-side airbag inflators, 
to which Ford agreed.\1\ In June 2016, Ford and Takata began a field-
recovery program to evaluate Takata calcium-sulfate desiccated PSDI-5 
driver-side airbag inflators that were original equipment in MY 2007-
2008 Ford Ranger vehicles in Florida, Michigan, and Arizona. See also 
Recall No. 17E-034.\2\ Nissan also initiated a similar field-recovery 
program for its Versa vehicles in March 2016. Recall No. 17V-449. By 
January 2017, a very limited number of samples from Ford were available 
and tested. Recall No. 17E-034. In March 2017, Takata and Ford met to 
review the field data collected from the inflators returned by Ford and 
Nissan. Recall No. 17E-034. Between March and June 2017, additional 
Ford inflators were subjected to live dissection, which included 
chemical and dimensional propellant analyses, and ballistic testing. 
Recall No. 17E-034. Also in June, Takata reviewed with Ford and NHTSA 
field-return data from Ford inflators. Recall No. 17E-034. Ford then 
met with NHTSA on July 6, 2017 to discuss the data collected to date, 
as well as an expansion plan for evaluating Takata calcium-sulfate 
desiccated PSDI-5 driver-side airbag inflators.
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    \1\ Mazda has relied upon the Ford testing information because 
Mazda's vehicles identified by Takata's DIR were designed by Ford 
and were built on the same platform and using the same airbag 
inflators as the affected Ford vehicles.
    \2\ Later, under Paragraph 43 of the Third Amendment to the 
Coordinated Remedy Order (``ACRO''), NHTSA ordered each vehicle 
manufacturer ``with any vehicle in its fleet equipped with a 
desiccated PSAN Takata inflator'' (and not using or planning to use 
such an inflator as a final remedy) to develop a written plan 
describing ``plans to confirm the safety and/or service life'' of 
desiccated PSAN Takata inflators used in its fleet. ACRO ] 43. Such 
plans were to include coordination with Takata for parts recovery 
from fleet vehicles, testing, and anticipated/future plans ``to 
develop or expand recovery and testing protocols of the desiccated 
PSAN inflators.'' Id.
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    Takata has analyzed over 400 such inflators from the Ford program--
as well as 895 such inflators from the Nissan program. See Recall No. 
17V-449. After a review of field-return data, on July 10, 2017, Takata, 
determining a safety-related defect exists, filed a DIR for calcium-
sulfate desiccated PSDI-5 driver-side airbag inflators that were 
produced from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2012 and installed as 
original equipment on certain motor vehicles manufactured by Ford (the 
``covered Ford inflators''), as well as calcium-sulfate desiccated 
PSDI-5 driver-side airbag inflators for those same years of production 
installed as original equipment on motor vehicles manufactured by 
Nissan (the ``covered Nissan inflators'') and Mazda (the ``covered 
Mazda inflators'') (collectively, the ``covered inflators''). Recall 
No. 17E-034.
    Takata's DIR filing triggered Mazda's obligation to file a DIR for 
its affected vehicles. See 49 CFR part 573; November 3, 2015 
Coordinated Remedy Order ]] 45-46.\3\ Mazda filed a corresponding DIR, 
informing NHTSA it intended to file a petition for inconsequentiality. 
Mazda Motor Corporation Petition for Determination of 
Inconsequentiality of Takata's Defect Information Report filing under 
NHTSA Campaign Number 17E-034 for PSDI-5 Desiccated Driver Air Bag 
Inflators (dated August 17, 2016) \4\ (``Petition'') (enclosing ``Mazda 
submission copy of Part 573''). Mazda then petitioned the Agency, under 
49 CFR part 556, via letter including an enclosed purported ``joint 
petition'' with Ford,\5\ for a decision that the equipment defect 
determined to exist by Takata is inconsequential as it relates to motor 
vehicle safety in the Mazda vehicles affected by Takata's DIR, and also 
requested NHTSA allow Ford until March 31, 2018 to complete an 
``expanded inflator field study, aging assessment, and testing on 
additional samples'' before NHTSA makes a decision on the Petition. Id. 
at 1. Mazda sent its Petition via UPS on August 17, 2017, scheduled to 
arrive the following day via next-day air. However, because the 
Petition was incorrectly addressed, NHTSA did not receive this copy of 
the Petition until August 23, 2017. NHTSA did, however, receive a copy 
via email on August 22, 2017.
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    \3\ Under 49 CFR 573.5(a), a vehicle manufacturer is responsible 
for any safety-related defect determined to exist in any item of 
original equipment. See also 49 U.S.C. 30102(b)(1)(C).
    \4\ Mazda appears to have inadvertently dated its letter August 
17, 2016, instead of August 17, 2017.
    \5\ Ford also submitted a petition to the Agency, with a cover 
letter dated August 16, 2017. This petition was not a ``joint 
petition'' with Mazda. Ford's petition is separately under 
consideration by the Agency.
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II. Timeliness

    Under 49 CFR 556.4(c), Mazda was required to submit its Petition to 
NHTSA no later than thirty days after Mazda determined a defect exists. 
Mazda made the defect determination on July 18, 2017, which allowed it 
until August 17, 2017 to submit a petition to the Agency. See Mazda's 
enclosed DIR; 49 CFR 556.4(c). However, Mazda sent its Petition via UPS 
on August 17, 2017, with the Petition scheduled to arrive the following 
day. NHTSA first received Mazda's Petition via email on August 22, 
2017--five days after it was due.
    Despite this procedural flaw, and with the public interest in mind, 
NHTSA acknowledges receipt of Mazda's Petition, is publishing the 
relevant documents for public comment, and addresses Mazda's request 
for the Agency to defer a decision on the Petition. NHTSA need not 
decide herein whether the timing of Mazda's filing is fatal to its 
Petition--that issue is preserved for decision at a later date.

III. Classes of Motor Vehicles Involved

    Mazda's Petition involves 5,848 vehicles in which the covered Mazda 
inflators were originally installed. Petition at 1. Those vehicles are 
MY 2007-2009 B-Series pickup trucks, which Mazda explains were built on 
the same platform and using the same airbag inflators as Ford MY 2007-
2011 Rangers. Id. Accordingly, Mazda states that although ``Takata has 
not tested PSDI-5 inflators with calcium sulfate from Mazda vehicles,'' 
data from those Ford Rangers is representative of Mazda's MY 2007-2009 
B-Series vehicles. Id.

IV. Summary of Mazda's Petition

    In support of its Petition, Mazda largely refers NHTSA to the 
``joint petition'' with Ford enclosed with Mazda's letter. Id. Mazda's 
Petition also provides a brief, bullet-point summary of certain 
arguments, including that data from Ford field-return parts does not 
show a propellant tablet-density degradation seen in field-return parts 
from Nissan; that pressure measurements in Ford inflator primary 
chambers during ballistic testing were

[[Page 53560]]

within specification and there were no reports of pressure vessel 
ruptures in PSDI-5 inflators the field; and that desiccant saturation 
is not an indicator of propellant degradation. Id. at 2-3.
    In the ``joint petition'' enclosed with Mazda's letter, Ford argues 
that Takata's DIR does not determine the covered Ford inflators 
``actually contain a defect at this time, or that they will develop one 
over time,'' and that once Ford completes its engineering analysis (by 
the end of March 2018), it will be able to supplement or amend its 
Petition to ``allow the Agency to make a determination'' on its 
Petition. See Enclosure at 10, 19. In the interim, Ford states that it 
will continue to obtain permanent replacement driver-side airbag 
inflators so that its continuing analysis will not affect the 
availability of parts if a remedy is needed. Id.
    Ford's position in the ``joint petition'' is that the defect is 
inconsequential rests on two related arguments. First, in contrast to 
testing data pertaining to the covered Nissan inflators, Ford contends 
Takata's analysis of the covered Ford inflators does not show 
propellant-tablet density degradation or increased inflation pressure. 
Id. at 11. Takata has analyzed over 1,300 of its calcium-sulfate 
desiccated PSDI-5 driver-side airbag inflators, which include 
approximately 423 inflators from Ford Ranger vehicles \6\ and 895 
inflators from Nissan Versa vehicles.\7\ Such analysis involved both 
live inflator dissections and ballistic testing. Id. Ford asserts that 
about 360 live dissections of inflators obtained as part of Ford's 
field-recovery program demonstrate ``consistent inflator output 
performance''--specifically, measurements of ignition-tablet 
discoloration, generate density, and moisture content of certain 
inflator constituents did not indicate a reduction-in-density trend. 
Id. at 11-12. Ford further contends that these observations are 
supported by 47 ballistic deployment tests that showed no inflator 
exceeding the production primary-chamber pressure specifications. Id. 
at 12-13. Ford also emphasizes that Takata has not observed pressure 
vessel ruptures or pressure excursions on any desiccated PSDI-5 
inflator, and that ``[t]he maximum primary chamber pressure that Takata 
measured'' in covered Ford inflators was about 15 MPa lower than that 
measured in a covered Nissan inflator (which exhibited primary chamber 
pressure exceeding 60 MPa). Id. at 14.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Twenty of these inflators were from salvage yards, however, 
``where the conditions used to store the parts cannot be 
determined.'' Id. at 11.
    \7\ In its DIR, Nissan provides this 895 figure; in its 
Petition, Ford attributes ``approximately 1,000'' covered inflators 
to Nissan's program. Compare Recall 17V-449 with Petition at 11.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Second, and relatedly, Ford contends ``[t]here are design 
differences'' in the covered Ford inflators when compared to the 
covered Nissan inflators, and that such differences may explain 
differences observed between the two inflator variants during testing. 
Id. In short, Ford cites its inflator variant as having ``fewer 
potential moisture sources'' because the inflators contain only two, 
foil-wrapped auto-ignition tablets (instead of three that are not foil-
wrapped), contain divider disk foil tape, and utilize certain EPDM 
generate cushion material (instead of ceramic) that ``reduces generate 
movement over time, maintains generate integrity, and leads to 
consistent and predictable burn rates.'' Id. at 15-16 (providing 
table).
    The remainder of the ``joint petition'' enclosed with Mazda's 
letter explains Ford's ``commit[ment] to further investigation of PSDI-
5 airbag inflators.'' See id. at 16-18. Because of this stated concern, 
including about data pertaining to the covered Nissan inflators, ``Ford 
is expanding the scope of the sampling and is involving leading 
industry experts to assess any potential risks from desiccated PSDI-5 
inflators in Ford products.'' Id. at 16. Ford outlines a two-pronged 
plan for this expansion. First, Ford describes a parts-acquisition 
program ``to gather approximately 6,000 desiccated PSDI-5 driver airbag 
inflators'' from certain model year vehicles in areas with high 
absolute humidity for what appears to be all vehicle lines in which the 
covered inflators were originally installed.\8\ Id. at 17. And second, 
Ford describes a continuation of inflator testing and engineering 
analysis, which will engage third-party experts for independent 
assessments. Id. at 17-18. The testing will include various engineering 
analyses (comparisons of design within the PSDI-5 family, statistical 
assessments, and ballistic modeling), inflator testing (CT scanning and 
inflator disassembly), and propellant testing (moisture content, 
closed-bomb burn rate, X-ray micro-computer tomography, 
thermogravimetric/differential scanning calorimetry analysis). Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ Ford's Petition explicitly lists six vehicle lines, 
comprising all affected Ford models except for the Fusion. See 
Petition at 17. However, one of the six vehicle lines is simply 
listed as ``2006-2007 MY Ford.'' Presumably, this refers to certain 
MY Ford Fusions.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

V. Request for Deferral of Determination

    Mazda requests in its letter that, ``in conjunction with [its] 
joint petition filing with'' Ford, NHTSA allow Mazda additional time 
before deciding on its Petition--specifically, until March 31, 2018--so 
Ford may ``complete its expanded inflator field study, aging 
assessment, and testing on additional samples.'' Petition at 1. Mazda 
also refers to ``Ford's commitment to further investigation of PSDI-5 
inflators through additional parts acquisitions as well as continued 
testing and engineering analysis.'' Id. at 3. Mazda does not make any 
additional reference to its deferral request in its letter, but does 
refer NHTSA to its enclosed ``joint'' petition'' with Ford, in which 
Ford further discusses this deferral request (on its own behalf). See 
id. Assuming, arguendo, that the explanation therein applies equally to 
Mazda, NHTSA must deny Mazda's request for deferral.
    In the ``joint petition,'' Ford makes the same request for a 
deferral as Mazda, so that it (Ford) may ``complete its intensified and 
expanded inflator field study, aging assessment, and testing on 
additional samples and vehicle types to evaluate the performance of the 
Takata desiccated PSDI-5 driver airbag inflators.'' See Enclosure at 
19. In making this request, Ford appears to acknowledge the available 
data may not yet be sufficient for the Agency to grant its petition. 
Indeed, Ford notes that while its results to date are ``good news for 
the safety'' of users of one of its six affected vehicle models--the 
Ranger--``the results on the Nissan design inflators are of concern.'' 
Id.
    The Agency recognizes Ford's plans to expand its investigation and 
to secure a supply of remedy inflators for affected vehicles if it 
becomes needed. See id. at 3, 10. However, 49 CFR 556.4(b)(5) provides 
that an inconsequentiality petition must set forth all data, views, and 
arguments supporting that petition, and Mazda (through Ford, arguendo) 
does not adequately justify why this provision does not preclude 
deferral here.
    Specifically, NHTSA does not find the request for deferral 
reasonable under the circumstances or supported by the testing and data 
collected to date. Indeed, Ford does not provide an explanation for why 
it has not already undertaken the expansive investigation it now 
proposes, and Ford's past efforts to evaluate the safety of the covered 
inflators do not support granting a deferral. NHTSA requested Ford's 
assistance in evaluating Takata calcium-

[[Page 53561]]

sulfate desiccated PSDI-5 driver-side airbag inflators in February 
2016, and over seventeen months later only about 400 covered Ford 
inflators have been tested. Moreover, the number of inflators tested 
under Ford's program was less than half the number tested under 
Nissan's program, and about seven percent of the approximately 6,000 
inflators Ford now proposes to test in only about seven months.
    It is difficult to reconcile Ford's ambitious plan with its prior 
approach toward evaluating the safety of the covered inflators. Ford 
has provided no compelling argument for the Agency to deviate from 49 
CFR 556.4(b)(5).
    For these reasons, NHTSA denies Mazda's request for a deferral of 
NHTSA's decision on Mazda's Petition. The Agency will decide on Mazda's 
Petition without consideration of Ford's planned additional efforts. 
Nevertheless, NHTSA recognizes Ford's plans to further evaluate the 
safety of Takata calcium-sulfate desiccated PSDI-5 driver-side airbag 
inflators, and encourages Ford to move forward with those plans as 
described--particularly given the concern about these inflators that 
Ford has expressed.
    Accordingly, NHTSA hereby gives notice of its receipt of Mazda 
Motor Corporation Petition for a Determination of Inconsequentiality of 
Takata's Defect Information Report filing under NHTSA Campaign Number 
17E-034 for PSDI-5 Desiccated Driver Air Bag Inflators. And it is 
hereby ordered that:
    1. The period for public comment on Mazda's Petition shall run from 
the publication of this decision through December 18, 2017; and
    2. Mazda's request for a deferral of NHTSA's decision on its 
Petition, so that Ford may complete its intensified and expanded 
inflator field study, aging assessment, and testing on additional 
samples, is denied.

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 30101, et seq., 30118, 30120(h), 30162, 
30166(b)(1), 30166(g)(1); delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.95(a); 
49 CFR parts 556, 573, 577.

    Issued: November 9, 2017.
Stephen P. Wood,
Acting Chief Counsel.
[FR Doc. 2017-24833 Filed 11-15-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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