Nearly 2 million more vehicles are being recalled by Toyota and Fiat Chrysler due to a series of airbag problems, the vast majority of them involving defective Takata airbag inflators.
Designed to enhance crash safety, airbags have become a major headache for automakers around the world due to design and manufacturing issues. The Takata problem alone has already become the largest recall in U.S. automotive history, impacting as many as 20 different automakers.
The largest of the two new recalls involves 1.6 million Toyota vehicles equipped with Takata airbags. The service action affects both the driver and passenger front airbags on vehicles as much as a decade old and sold through the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands.
At least 13 deaths worldwide – 10 of them in the U.S. – have been attributed to faulty Takata airbags. During a crash, the inflators may deploy over-aggressively, sending metal and plastic fragments spewing into the passenger compartment.
The problem was originally blamed on a manufacturing defect that makes the Takata inflators more prone to malfunction in warm and humid climates, such as Southern Florida, but a recent industry-funded study also warned that the chemical Takata uses for its inflators, ammonium nitrate, is inherently unstable and prone to breaking down over time.
That recently prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to order the Japanese supplier to expand its earlier recall. Up to that point, about 24 million vehicles sold in the U.S. alone. The new recall could eventually impact as many as 40 million more airbags. The precise vehicle count is so far uncertain because some vehicles use more than one of the recalled Takata bags.
That’s the case with the latest announcement from Toyota which covers the 2006 to 2011 Yaris and Lexus IS, 2010 and 2011 4Runner and Lexus GX, 2011 Sienna, 2008 to 2011 Scion xB and 2007 to 2011 Lexus ES.
Fourteen automakers were affected by the initial Takata recall, but others are being impacted by the expanded NHTSA order, including Daimler AG, parent of the Smart and Mercedes-Benz brands.
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Toyota says it will notify owners and repair affected vehicles at no charge.
While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has also been impacted by the Takata problem, its latest airbag recall is the result of a different problem. Dust and dirt can accumulate in the steering wheels of nearly 400,000 Jeep Wranglers, especially those operated off-road. If that happens, a clockspring can be compromised, preventing the vehicles’ driver-side airbags from deploying in a crash.
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The recall covers Jeep Wranglers produced during the 2007 to 2010 model-years.
Separately, FCA said it is recalling nearly 40,000 Fiat 500 minicars due to a problem with the clutch release mechanism. It could damage transmission components due to a manufacturing flaw. The recall covers vehicles produced during the 2012 to 2016 model-years and equipped with naturally aspirated engines.
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As with the Toyota Takata airbag recall, FCA says it will notify owners to bring their vehicles into dealers with repairs to be made at no charge.