By David Shepardson
DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co has asked U.S. safety regulators to a delay a recall of 980,000 trucks with Takata air bag inflators to allow it to demonstrate the vehicles are safe and avoid a hit to profits.
In a Sept. 2 petition filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and made public on Friday, the Detroit automaker asked the agency to delay the recall, set to begin by Dec. 31. The GM vehicles at issue are 2007-2012 full-size trucks and SUVs.
GM said on Friday a one-year delay would permit GM and an outside firm "to complete a long-term aging study and fully analyze the service life of these inflators."
The NHTSA has identified 6.8 million GM vehicles equipped with Takata airbags the agency said should be recalled. GM has said previously it does not believe there is a safety defect in any of the 6.8 million vehicles, but it agreed to an initial recall after talks with the NHTSA.
GM has said in securities filings that the cost of replacing all 6.8 million Takata airbags could total $870 million. The company said in July the cost of replacing Takata air bag inflators in 4.3 million of the affected vehicles would be $550 million, while replacing inflators in the 2.5 million vehicles recalled to date would cost as much as $320 million.
GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said on Friday the automaker is still in talks with the agency about the recall - and GM has not begun making any recall repairs.
GM has said its Takata inflators have a unique design that does not pose a safety risk. The company said data showed no cases of an airbag rupturing among 44,000 deployments in large GM pickups and SUVs that contain Takata inflators.
GM's stance is at odds with the position of regulators that all front Takata airbag inflators without a drying agent must be recalled. NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas declined to comment Friday on the petition.
Upward of 100 million vehicles worldwide with Takata airbag inflators have been declared defective and are linked to 14 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Inflators can explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into vehicle passenger compartments.
(Editing by Joseph White and Steve Orlofsky)