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Takata airbags being installed on new cars, while 70 million are being recalled

Automakers admitted to U.S. lawmakers this week that they are still putting possibly defective Takata airbags in their new cars even while recalling close to 70 million old ones.

'These cars shouldn't be sold until they're fixed,' Florida senator says

Worldwide, more than 70 million Takata airbags are currently under recall. (Duane Burleson/Associated Press)

Automakers admitted to U.S. lawmakers this week that they are still putting possibly defective Takata airbags in their new cars even while they are recalling close to 70 million old ones.

Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi told members of the U.S. Senate commerce committee that they are still installing Takata airbags on new models with the full knowledge that they may also need to be recalled in the next two years.

"What's troubling here is that consumers are buying new cars not realizing they're going to be recalled," U.S. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson from Florida said in a statement. "These cars shouldn't be sold until they're fixed."

The airbags in question contain ammonium-nitrate inflators, which have been proven to have problems with their drying agent.

In hot and humid conditions, the defect can make the airbags explode with excessive force when they deploy and spray metal shrapnel into passenger compartments. They are suspected in 13 deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries.

The vehicles don't become dangerous until long-term exposure to high humidity, so in the short-term are safe to drive — and much safer than the older models on the roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency. 

Because so many vehicles are being recalled, the government is rolling out the recalls in stages. Models from 2011 or older in high heat and humidity areas will get first priority, followed by 2008 and older models in Southern-tier states, then 2004 and older models in the rest of the country.

In recent weeks, the number of affected vehicles has ballooned to 40 million in North America and 70 million worldwide, involving 17 different automakers.

Fiat Chrysler told the committee at least one of its current models contains a frontal passenger-side airbag that uses the ammonium-nitrate inflators without a desiccant or drying agent. It said Wednesday that no vehicle being sold is under recall and it is moving on an accelerated timetable.

Honda Motor Co, which has recalled 10.2 million vehicles in the United States for Takata inflators including some more than once, told the committee that 17,000 new vehicles are equipped with inflators without drying agents, but no additional new vehicles will be equipped with such inflators.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a Honda spokesman said no current Honda or Acura vehicles on the market in the U.S. are being manufactured with Takata air-bag inflaters lacking a drying agent.

Toyota, one of two automakers that did not provide specific models to Senate investigators, expects to produce approximately 175,000 vehicles with the defective Takata inflators by July 2017, the report said.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Honda told a U.S. Senate committee they are still installing Takata airbags on new models. In fact, Honda told senate staff no new vehicles are being built with the inflators in question.
    Jun 01, 2016 11:53 PM ET

With files from Reuters

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