On September 19, 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it had opened an investigation into an additional 30 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags. Airbags manufactured by Takata have been linked to 28 deaths worldwide and are already the subject of the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history. The additional 30 million vehicles are made up of cars from 19 different manufacturers from the model years 2001 through 2019. Practically every major car manufacturer is included: Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Tesla, Mercedes, Mazda, Chrysler, General Motors (Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac, Buick), BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, and more.
What is different about this recall?
The previous recall of over 100 million vehicles worldwide resulted from Takata’s use of an ammonium-nitrate-based propellant that did not have a chemical drying agent. Without the chemical drying agent in hot, humid climates, these airbags were susceptible to deploying with extreme force and rupturing the inflator housing, leading to metal shrapnel exploding into the vehicle’s cabin. The injuries from these airbag ruptures can cause permanent and life-altering injuries, scarring, and even death. Over 50 million airbag inflators have been replaced to date by installing new airbag systems that include a desiccant designed to fix the problems that led to the original recall.
The recently announced recall deals with a separate issue – the chemical drying agent, or desiccant, itself. NHTSA is now investigating the efficacy of the chemical drying agent that Takata has been using in its airbag inflators. This new recall even includes vehicles that have previously had their defective Takata airbags replaced as part of the original recall. If the desiccant is not effective, or if it breaks down at a faster than expected rate, then consumers are unfortunately back to square one with their Takata-equipped vehicles and the dangers posed by them. While NHTSA has said that no present safety risk has been identified, they have taken the unprecedented step of recalling an additional 30 million vehicles while investigating. This indicates that their concerns are significant and that the vehicles identified in the recall pose a substantial risk to their drivers.
What should I do to protect myself?
The first step to protecting yourself is to see if your vehicle is part of the Takata recall. If it is, you should make arrangements to have the vehicle serviced so that your local dealership can replace the defective airbag inflator. As always, you should practice defensive driving and take all possible precautions when driving the vehicle before you replace the defective inflator. Finally, if you or a loved one are injured due to a defective airbag, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Time is of the essence in preserving the evidence necessary to prove your claim. Products liability cases can be tricky and technical.