A just-published survey of automakers that sell vehicles in the United States shows that six have 2016 or 2017 models that feature the kinds of Takata airbags that are subject to a worldwide recall related to a fatal design flaw. According to an Aug. 22, 2016, post to Cars.com, the potentially dangerous cars and SUVs are produced by
- Daimler, which produces Mercedes-Benz luxury sedans and Smart hybrid two-doors
- Fiat, which recently absorbed Chrysler and its iconic Jeep brand
The problematic airbags use ammonium nitrate to spark the small explosion that deploys an airbag in the event of a crash. The chemical becomes unstable over time, especially when exposed to high heat and humidity. This property can lead to airbags reliant on an ammonium nitrate accelerant to underinflate or inflate so forcefully that it ruptures. In either situation, the airbag cannot fulfill its function of protecting a driver or passenger.
Also, a rupturing airbag can send debris – shrapnel, really — rocketing through the inside of a vehicle. Among the 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries attributed to dangerous and defective Takata airbags, rapidly flying and superheated pieces of metal have caused much of the harm.
As Virginia-based personal and wrongful death attorneys who have helped many people hold negligent corporations accountable for producing and selling unsafe products, my colleagues and I have kept a close eye on issues with Takata airbags. A series of increasingly inclusive recalls that began in 2014 has culminated in more 28 million vehicles being placed under order for emergency repairs. Takata has also entered into a consent agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to stop making airbags that use ammonium nitrate by 2018.
Learning that Takata and a range of leading automakers are still putting the recalled airbags into passenger vehicles shocks and troubles us. The companies are knowingly putting people’s lives and health at risk. Airbags that do not use the dangerous accelerant are available. Failing to choose a safer type of airbag over one that is undeniably dangerous should never happen.