Report shows 4 automakers still installing faulty Takata airbags
According to a U.S. Senate report released Wednesday, Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen are continuing to sell new vehicles equipped with faulty Takata airbags — knowing that these vehicles will have to be recalled by 2018.
The automakers admitted during an investigation by Senate Commerce Committee Democrats that they are selling cars equipped with Takata airbags that feature ammonium-nitrate inflators lacking a desiccant, or a chemical drying agent, the report said.
These inflators, part of a massive recall by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have been linked to airbag ruptures that send metal pieces flying into vehicles. So far, 13 people have died and dozens have been injured in such incidents.
"What's troubling here is that consumers are buying new cars not realizing they’re going to be recalled,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the report’s author, said in a statement. “These cars shouldn’t be sold until they're fixed.”
Volkswagen said that its 2016 Volkswagen CC, as well as the 2016 Audi TT and 2017 Audi R8 models made by its Audi brand, contained the non-desiccated inflators. Mitsubishi said that the 2016 and 2017 model years of its i-MiEV electric vehicle contain these inflators.
While Toyota and Fiat Chrysler declined to name the new models that contained the inflators, the former told investigators that it expected to produce about 175,000 cars for the U.S. them through July 2017. Fiat Chrysler said at least one of its current models contained a passenger-side airbag with the faulty inflator.
In its initial response to investigators, Honda said that 17,000 new vehicles were equipped with non-desiccated inflators, but the automaker more recently said that no new vehicles are or will be equipped with such inflators.
“This may be the first time in history where multiple automakers are selling brand new cars with a known, and potentially deadly, defect,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “Takata’s airbags haven’t typically thrown shrapnel at occupants in their first few years after production, but the ammonium-nitrate inflators have a history of exploding with too much force at some point in the airbag’s lifecycle. The scope of this recall continues to expand, and the number of vehicles impacted by it has already reached a level that will take years to resolve.”
Also Wednesday, Ford issued a safety recall for vehicles containing non-desiccated inflators.
Those vehicles are the 2007-2010 Ford Edge, 2006-2011 Ford Fusion, 2005-2011 Ford Mustang, 2007-2011 Ford Ranger, 2007-2010 Lincoln MKX and 2006-2011 Lincoln MKZ, Zephyr and Mercury Milan vehicles built in North America. Ford said it is not aware of any injuries associated with these passenger-side frontal inflators in any Ford vehicles related to this safety recall. Driver-side airbag inflators in these vehicles are not included in this recall.
A total of 1,898,728 Ford vehicles now are affected by this recall, including 1,896,443 in the U.S. and federalized territories, 1,304 in Canada and one in Mexico. Dealers will replace the passenger-side frontal airbag inflator at no cost to the customer.
Wednesday’s news was likely to lead to further confusion and frustration surrounding the Takata recall.
More than 60 million inflators may eventually be affected by the recall, the report noted.
“The Takata defective airbag situation worsened with today’s report of four automaker selling some new vehicles with defective airbags not yet recalled, and Ford recalling nearly 1.9 million vehicles,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Autotrader. “There seems to be no end in sight anytime soon for this saga.”