Toyota is recalling at least 1.7 million cars in North America due to issues with the Takata airbag inflators. The move was announced on Wednesday and is one of the largest recalls in the company’s history. According to recent reports, the airbags are said to be potentially deadly since they can explode with a lot of force hurling shrapnel into drivers and even passengers. So far, 23 fatalities have been reported worldwide as a result of this while hundreds of people have reported injuries too.
The recall will affect a number of models including the 4Runner models released between 2010 and 2016. Corolla and Matrix models released between 2010 and 2013 will also be affected. Also covered in the recall are the Lexus models from 2010 to 2012. The Takata airbags use ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion which in turn inflates the air bags. However, the chemical has the potential to deteriorate over time, especially in areas with high humidity and cycles of cold or high temperatures. Reports indicate that airbags in the south of the US along the Mexican border are the most vulnerable to this phenomenon.
As part of the recall, dealers will either replace the entire airbag or the inflation mechanism. This would likely mean that the Japanese car maker will have to adopt inflators from other manufacturers that don’t use ammonium nitrate. Toyota has yet to confirm whether it’s aware of the fatalities reported as a result of this mishap. But the company is expected to issue a comprehensive statement soon. Owners affected by the recall will get an email later in January with directions on how they should proceed. Toyota is also launching a dedicated website that will help owners check if their car has been affected or not.
However, the recall is not surprising. Issues with the Takata inflators have been known for a while and in fact, three years ago, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took over the management of recalls involving these inflators. Automakers around the world are scheduled to replace at least 10 million inflators over the coming few weeks. Honda and Ford have also announced recalls due to the same issue. It’s estimated that overall, over 50 million recalls could be confirmed. Although car makers have done well to fix the issue as fast as they can, there are still nearly 16 million cars out there that are yet to be replaced.
Safety experts note that a lot of people don’t seem to understand the kind of danger that these inflators pose. But so far there’s confidence that all the replacements will be done soon. Takata, the company that made the inflators, filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan after the issues with the airbags emerged. The company has also sold most of its assets in order to raise money to pay for the replacements. The deadly airbags could affect millions more around the world not just in North America. Toyota is handling the recalls fast to avoid any possible issues in the future.