What started with just over 10 million vehicles from a few manufacturers would expand over the next four years to involve over 100 million vehicles from 19 separate automakers. Of those, the United States would see 69 million recalls on its own as faulty Takata airbags have killed more than 20 people around the world and led to the largest recall in US automotive history.
At issue is the inflator mechanism in the devices. If the airbag is deployed, a design flaw can cause the inflator to explode and send shrapnel careening into the vehicle’s cabin. As a result, an auto collision that should have been completely survivable could instead prove fatal.
Such was the case when a 17-year old girl accidentally rear-ended the car in front of her on a Texas road in late 2016. The impact caused the airbag in her 2002 Honda Civic to deploy and the inflator subsequently exploded. Shrapnel was sent flying into the cabin and a piece struck her in the neck. She died moments later after exiting her vehicle, taking a step, and collapsing to the ground. A witness would note a “deep laceration on the side of her throat.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently expressed its displeasure with the pace of airbag replacements in Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series trucks. The vehicles in question were manufactured in 2006 and only around half of each have had their airbags replaced at this point. This puts nearly 17,000 Ford Ranger drivers and just under 930 Mazda truck drivers in serious risk.
Because of the nature of the fault, drivers of vehicles affected by the Takata recall are asked not to drive their vehicles; and that includes getting them to a service center to have the replacement parts installed. According to the NHTSA, “both Ford and Mazda have authorized their dealers to tow these vehicles free of charge, so consumers can safely obtain the free repair.”
Consumers are asked to visit the NHTSA’s website to run their VINs and determine if their vehicles are affected by this massive recall. As spoken by NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King, “I cannot stress strongly enough the urgency of this recall – these airbags are dangerous. Every vehicle must be accounted for now.”