A rare “Do Not Drive” warning has been issued for more than 35,000 Ford and Mazda vehicles, which have been recalled due to airbag problems, leading federal highway safety officials to urge consumers not to operate the vehicles due to a risk of serious injury or death posed by defective Takata airbag inflators.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series Pickup Takata airbag warning on February 12, warning that new testing has revealed the Takata airbag inflators may spontaneously rupture, even if the vehicle is not involved in a crash.
The warning was announced following a fatality reported in July 2017, which involved a 56 year old man from West Virginia who was killed by a rupturing Takata air bag inflator while driving his 2006 Ford Ranger pickup.
Following a NHTSA investigation, officials determined the Takata airbag inflators installed in certain Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series trucks have produced dangerously high internal pressure readings that could cause the inflators to rupture and explode, sending shrapnel throughout the cabin of the vehicle at the driver and occupants.
Last month, Ford Motor Company announced it would be recalling an estimated 2,900 model year 2006 Ranger pickups, issuing a “Do Not Drive Warning” to customers that could be at risk of the inflators rupturing while driving, parked, idling, or when involved in a crash.
After reviewing the production dates of the Takata airbag inflators installed, Ford identified an additional 33,428 model year 2006 Ford Ranger and 1,955 Mazda B-Series small pickups were also equipped with the same inflators and expanded the do not drive warning.
The NHTSA has stated the impacted vehicles equipped with defective Takata airbags are an immediate risk to occupant safety, and owners are being encouraged to not drive the vehicles until they are repaired.
Ford announced replacement airbags for both model vehicles are currently available at licensed dealers. Customers are being notified to contact their local dealers to schedule their vehicle to be towed to the dealership for repair and to be provided a loaner vehicle, all free of charge.
The Takata airbag recalls are the largest and most complex recall to ever hit the auto industry, impacting more than100 million vehicles.
Nearly every major automaker has been affected by the recalls, including Honda, General Motors, Ford, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chrysler (FCA), Mazda, Toyota, and various others.
The recalled airbags may unexpectedly explode under certain conditions, such as high humidity, causing the airbag to over-inflate and send shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment of the vehicle. An investigation by the NHTSA has suggested that ammonium nitrate based propellants used in the inflators may cause the airbag explosions and that the chemical may not be safe for inflator designs.
Takata has already reached a $1 billion settlement with the Department of Justice over criminal charges linked to the recalls. In addition, Takata could face charges of wire fraud for putting out false and misleading information about the airbags, which have been linked to 11 deaths and at least 184 injuries in the U.S. alone.