In effort to address a potentially fatal problem with the Takata airbags installed in its vehicles, Toyota is recalling an additional 1.3 million cars, minivans, and SUVs in the U.S. The affected vehicles have airbags that can explode and cause injury. Owners are urged to contact a local dealer to have the airbag replaced for free.
The faulty airbags have been responsible for more than 250 injuries and at least 15 fatalities in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Defective Takata Airbags
The problem involves a chemical component within the mechanism that inflates the vehicles’ airbags. These inflators contain a propellant that becomes unstable after prolonged exposure to high heat and humidity. If the vehicle is involved in an accident severe enough to deploy the airbag, the inflator can explode.
These inflators are produced by Takata, a Japanese auto parts company that supplies car manufacturers worldwide. The problem involves tens of millions of airbag inflators, making this the biggest auto recall in history.
Toyota’s most recent announcement involves the front passenger-side airbag and covers vehicles across the company’s three brands of Toyota, Lexus, and Scion, including:
2010-2016 Toyota 4Runner
2010-2013 Toyota Corolla
2010-2013 Toyota Matrix
2011-2014 Toyota Sienna
2010-2015 Scion xB
2010-2015 Lexus ES 350
2010-2017 Lexus GX 460
2010-2015 Lexus IS 250C/350C
2010-2013 Lexus IS 250/350
2010-2014 Lexus IS-F
Recall is Being Conducted in Stages
This announcement constitutes the next wave of Toyota’s affected vehicles in the recall that began in 2014 when Takata was forced by the NHTSA to address the airbag issue. Earlier phases affected other vehicles in Toyota’s lineup. Eighteen other manufacturers have been addressing similar problems with Takata airbag inflators in their cars.
Recall efforts are prioritized according to the likelihood of problems stemming from the car’s exposure to heat and humidity over time. Tests indicate that hot and humid conditions exacerbate the problem, so cars sold or registered in areas prone to such conditions are being addressed first.
How Do I Determine If My Car is Part of the Recall?
Vehicle owners should contact their dealer or search NHTSA.gov using their vehicle identification number (VIN) to see if their vehicle is part of the current recall. NHTSA urges owners to check back often, as more vehicles will continue to be added to the recall. The final round is scheduled to be announced in 2020.
Owners of vehicles under this active recall should avoid driving with passengers in the front seat, since a person’s weight will trigger the passenger-side airbag in the event of a crash. In other vehicles, the issue involves the driver’s side airbags. Some earlier recalled vehicles are at such high risk that they should not be driven at all. Owners should contact a dealer to arrange a tow.
Liability in the Event of an Accident Involving a Takata Airbag
Companies should be held accountable for the safety of the products they sell. Furthermore, once a problem is discovered, responsible companies should institute proper remediation plans to address the issue. When defective auto parts malfunction, car manufacturers, dealers, and auto parts makers may be held liable. Those injured by an auto defect should seek help from a lawyer with experience in product liability law.