Caution: Most vehicles with faulty Takata airbags remain unrepaired

The holidays are the last time of the year when you want to worry about defective car parts. Unfortunately, there continue to be problems with the massive Takata airbag recall. According to an independent monitor, almost two-thirds of U.S. vehicles with the company’s defective airbag inflators have not been fixed.

The independent monitor overseeing the recalls issued a recent progress report saying that 64 percent of the affected vehicles remain unrepaired. That’s 20 million vehicles on U.S. roads with defective airbag inflators that need to be replaced (or 25 million inflators total, since some cars have two inflators).

The inflator is a metal cartridge with propellant wafers. These wafers sometimes go off with explosive force, rupturing the inflator housing. In a crash, the explosion of a propellant wafer can send shards of metal shooting through the interior of the car. So far, these airbag systems have been linked to hundreds of injuries and at least 13 deaths.

Part of the reason for the delay in repairing affected vehicles has been a lack of available replacement parts, as Takata was producing airbag assemblies both for new cars and for the recalled vehicles. Since declaring bankruptcy in June, Takata is no longer producing replacement parts at all.

We took note of Takata’s bankruptcy in a blog post last July, detailing how it may affect holding responsible parties accountable.

Recalls will continue and be expanded throughout 2018 under a plan by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Under the plan, NHTSA has attempted to replace the oldest and riskiest parts first. Sixty-five million inflators will need to be replaced by the end of 2018.

The progress on replacing the inflators has been uneven, according to the independent monitor’s report. Nineteen automakers have vehicles containing the faulty air bag assemblies, and their success rates at getting vehicles repaired has varied widely. The report noted “uneven historical efforts” by automakers to contact customers and take steps to ensure they seek out replacements. The report did not say which automakers were performing well or poorly at recall efforts. While stating that meaningful progress has been made, the report concludes that there is “much room for improvement.”

If you are unsure whether your car, truck or SUV might have a defective Takata airbag assembly, you can find out by using NHTSA’s VIN lookup tool.

If you or a loved one has been injured and you suspect a defective airbag played a role, please contact an attorney for an evaluation of your case.

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