Car Buyers Beware: Your New Car Could Have a Deadly Airbag

Consumers buy new vehicles for the promise of dependability and safety; however, new car buyers could be purchasing vehicles equipped with defective airbags that can explode or rupture with excessive force and shoot metal shrapnel throughout the vehicle compartment.

A recent Senate report confirmed four automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Volkswagen AG and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., are continuing to sell some vehicles with potentially deadly airbags manufactured by Japanese supplier Takata.

The airbags at issue lack a chemical drying agent confirmed to be the root cause of the inflators’ propensity to rupture, according to a recent blog published by David Brose, partner at Langdon & Emison.

Takata’s airbags contain a compound called ammonium nitrate that acts like a propellant to create a small explosion that inflates the airbags. The chemical propellant is housed in a metal canister designed to contain the explosion.

“But, ammonium nitrate can deteriorate or become unstable over time or when it is exposed to moisture in high heat and humidity, causing the propellant to burn too fast, blow apart the metal canister and send shrapnel into the necks and faces of vehicle occupants,” Brose wrote.

For several years, Takata evaluated the composition of the compound and eventually added a drying agent to make it more stable and absorb moisture, according to The New York Times.  

Top safety regulators recently announced that at least 35 million additional Takata airbags need to be recalled, nearly doubling what is already a record-breaking automotive recall in U.S. history. The new recalls focus on airbags without the drying agent; however, it could be 2018 before new car buyers know if their vehicles are under recall.

According to Brose, the expanded recall brings the total to at least 63 million recalled Takata airbags, affected nearly one in four of the 250 million vehicles on U.S. roads. The recall will be carried out in phases, with older vehicles in high-humidity areas being top priority.

Brose urges consumers to be diligent in their research when purchasing new cars that could have Takata airbags. Consumers can enter their vehicle identification number on safercar.gov to find out if their vehicles are included in the current recall.

At least 13 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide have been linked to the defective airbags.

Contact Langdon & Emison

A national leader in auto product defect cases, Langdon & Emison represents clients nationwide in Takata airbag cases. If you or a loved one has been injured by a Takata airbag, contact our firm at 800-397-4910 or complete an online form.