The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has urged consumers to take immediate action to replace defective airbags in millions of BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Suburu, and Toyota vehicles. The model years of the affected vehicles range from 2000 to 2011 depending on manufacturer and model. You can check to see if your vehicle is subject to the recall by entering your vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (“VIN”) on the NHTSA Web site.
The vehicles subject to the recall all contain airbags manufactured by Takata Corporation (“Takata”). These airbags, which are meant to serve an important safety function, protecting you and your family in the event of an accident, can actually cause shrapnel-firing explosions when activated, potentially causing even greater injury than the accident alone, and possibly death. This creates an extremely dangerous condition, as even in a minor accident, airbags can be deployed. At least four deaths have been attributed to this defect.
The defect seems to manifest more frequently in hot, humid climates, so the NHTSA is urging consumers with affected vehicles in those regions to head to their dealers immediately. Experts in the industry have speculated that the defect is attributable to ammonium nitrate, a chemical used to cause the airbags to deploy in milliseconds. Takata is the only airbag manufacturer that uses this chemical. Bloomberg reports that the use of this chemical could result in lighter, smaller airbags. Unfortunately, this chemical is sensitive to moisture, and its addition leads to unstable ammonium nitrate, that when ignited on airbag deployment can cause the airbag and shrapnel to explode violently, causing injury or death to those in the vehicle.