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US allows GM to delay recall to prove safety of airbags

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2016 | 12:16 AM


US auto safety regulators are allowing General Motors to delay a large recall of potentially defective airbags, giving the company time to prove that the devices are safe and to possibly avoid a huge financial hit.

The unusual move by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration buys time for GM to do long-term tests of Takata airbag inflators in older trucks and SUVs, including its top-selling vehicle - the Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

GM reluctantly agreed to recall 2.5 million vehicles in May to replace Takata front-passenger inflators. But the company said at the time its inflators are unique and safer than those linked to 11 deaths in the US and as many as 16 worldwide.

The company petitioned for the delay last week and the government agreed on Monday. The decision delays the recall until August 31, 2017. If GM can prove that the inflators are safe by that time, the recall could be cancelled.

The recall covered the Silverado, GMC Sierra pickup and many popular full-size SUVs from the 2007 to 2011 model years. Some of the trucks are now older than the minimum six years that it takes for Takata inflators to deteriorate and become risky. But GM contends its tests so far show that they are safe for at least three and a half more years.