DETROIT — Stellantis — formerly known as Fiat Chrysler — is warning owners of certain later models of Dodge vehicles to stop driving the cars altogether, as exploding airbags killed three more drivers. According to the Associated Press, the company has confirmed that driver airbags blew apart in two cases, killing the drivers, and it suspects an inflator rupture led to the death of a third driver in the past seven months.
The latest Takata airbag deaths bring the global total of fatalities related to the problem to at least 32, 23 of which were in the US.
Stellaantis says 2005 through 2010 drivers of the Dodge Magnum wagons, the Dodge Challenger and Charger muscle cars, and the Chrysler 300 sedans should park their cars immediately.
“Unrepaired, recalled Takata airbags are becoming increasingly dangerous as the risk of an explosion increases as vehicles age,” Ann Carlson, acting administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in a statement. “Every day that goes by that a recalled airbag is not replaced puts you and your family at greater risk of injury or death.”
The NHTSA is urging owners of any of the affected models to verify that their vehicles recall an unrepaired Takata airbag. Owners can visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls to enter their 17-digit vehicle identification number and see if their model needs the airbags repaired. Owners can also call Stellantis at 1-833-585-0144 to see if their vehicle has any recalls.
The problems with the airbags stem from the ammonium nitrate used in the airbags to create a small explosion that inflates the airbags in a crash. However, the ammonium nitrate can become more volatile over time, especially if exposed to moisture in the air and repeated high temperatures. The resulting explosion can blow apart a metal canister which can then send shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment.
Stellantis says even a minor crash can be enough to cause a problem with unrepaired airbags, putting drivers and passengers at risk for injury.
The AP reports that most of the deaths in the US and more than 400 injuries related to the airbag problems have happened in the warmer weather state.
The Takata airbag recall is the largest in US history as 67 million inflators were recalled. Stellantis says it has made more than 210 million attempts to reach affected owners via letters, courier deliveries, emails, text messages, phone calls and home visits. However, some people have not responded to the warnings about the airbags.
In the cases of the three most recent deaths, Stellantis says it has reached out to the owners of those vehicles a total of 153 times.
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