You might be driving one of the nearly 8 million vehicles affected by a recent airbag recall. On October 21, 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a Consumer Advisory, warning drivers to immediately replace defective airbags manufactured by Takata Corp., a Japanese airbag supplier.
A properly functioning airbag slows forward momentum, protecting an occupant against the impact of a car crash. It prevents the driver from slamming into the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield. But the Takata airbag explodes with excessive force, firing metal and plastic parts in the faces and/or upper bodies of unsuspecting occupants, causing severe injuries and even death. In fact, a Florida woman passed away after sustaining multiple injuries in a serious car crash, including several deep gashes in her neck. Authorities later confirmed that debris exploding from her airbag caused the mysterious "stab wounds." http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/21/business/it-looked-like-a-stabbing-but-takata-air-bag-was-the-killer.html.To date, the Takata airbags have been linked to several deaths and over 100 other injuries.
Investigations are ongoing, but it seems Takata incorrectly handled the chemicals that produce the gas that inflates the airbag. Heat increases this risk, so the recall is most urgent for warmer, more humid climates. See http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2014/10/22/takata-airbag-deaths-recall-stock-investors-defect/17709019.
The Wall Street Journal now reports the U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating whether Takata has made misleading statements about its airbags to federal safety regulators and automakers.
AFFECTED VEHICLES: Since the early 2000s, Takata has sold defective airbags to BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and GM automakers. See the full list of vehicles here: http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/Vehicle-owners-with-defective-airbags-urged-to-take-immediate-action.
STAY PROACTIVE: Consumer feedback is crucial - even if your vehicle hasn't been recalled, your questions about its safety are valid! Notify NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) if you have concerns about the vehicle, tires, and other equipment, including car seats. You can file a Safety Complaint at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/VehicleComplaint or call (888) 327-4236; TTY (800) 424-9153.
NEXT STEPS: If your car is affected by a safety recall, the vehicle's manufacturer will mail you a notice. It is a good idea to look up your car on NHTSA's website ( www.safercar.gov/vinlookup), and the manufacturer's website, using your 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). For more advance notice, register on Safercar.gov to receive recall alerts by email, text, or RSS feed. There are also mobile apps for Apple and Android devices. Contact your car dealer's service department as soon as possible to schedule necessary repairs. Your manufacturer should fix your vehicle or equipment free of charge.