Third exploding airbag inflator death confirmed, owners urged to get repairs
DETROIT (AP) - Stellantis and U.S. safety regulators have confirmed that an exploding Takata airbag inflator has killed another driver.
The company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reiterated warnings to owners of 274,000 older Dodge and Chrysler vehicles to stop driving them until faulty inflators are replaced.
Stellantis announced two deaths in November caused by the airbags and said it suspected the inflators caused another. The company formerly known as Fiat Chrysler confirmed the third death early Monday.
Stellantis is urging people to stop driving Dodge Magnum wagons, Dodge Challenger and Charger muscle cars and Chrysler 300 sedans from the 2005 through 2010 model years.
Since 2009, the exploding airbags have killed at least 33 people worldwide, including 24 in the United States.
All three deaths this year were in warm-weather U.S. states and happened since April, the company said.
Takata used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate airbags in a crash. But the chemical can become more volatile over time when exposed to moisture in the air and repeated high temperatures. The explosion can rupture a metal canister and hurl shrapnel into the passenger compartment.
Most of the deaths and about 400 injuries have happened in U.S., but they also have occurred in Australia and Malaysia.
The Stellantis vehicles under the "Do Not Drive" warning were all recalled in 2015, and free repairs have been available since then. Dealers have the parts and the service is free, and Stellantis will provide transportation to get the vehicles to and from a dealership, the company said.
NHTSA said the latest person killed was driving a 2010 Chrysler 300.
"Time is a critical element here because the risk increases with each day these airbag inflators go unreplaced," said Tom McCarthy, global head of safety and regulatory compliance at Stellantis.
The recalls affect vehicles in which the airbag inflators have not been replaced as part of the recall.
NHTSA urged all owners to check to see if their vehicles have an unrepaired Takata airbag recall. Drivers can go to https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and key in their 17-digit vehicle identification number to see if they have any open recalls.
"This holiday season, don’t let yourself or someone you love be at risk of dying or being seriously injured because of a defective, recalled Takata airbag," said NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson.
In a statement, Stellantis said the vehicle’s owner asked the company about the airbag recall in 2018, but then declined to schedule service. The company said it sent 114 urgent notices to the owner for the past seven years.
The owner loaned the vehicle to a family member who was killed in a July crash when the inflator blew apart, Stellantis said. The company wouldn’t say where the crash occurred, but said it extends its deepest sympathies to the family.
Earlier this month NHTSA said the driver of a 2002 Honda Accord was killed when the driver’s airbag inflator ruptured and hurled shrapnel. Honda said the crash occurred on Feb. 22 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Potential for the dangerous malfunction led to the largest series of auto recalls in U.S. history, with at least 67 million Takata inflators recalled. The U.S. government says that millions have not been repaired. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide. The exploding airbags sent Takata Corp. of Japan into bankruptcy.