Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is reiterating its “Do Not Drive” warning for hundreds of thousands of cars after another person died as a result of a Takata airbag exploding upon deployment in a Fiat Chrysler vehicle.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed the death Monday. It was the third death attributed to a recalled Takata airbag in a Fiat Chrysler sedan in 2022 and the fifth in total involving such airbags in any car over the past year.
Fiat Chrysler’s latest “Do Not Drive” warning concerns around 276,000 vehicles, including 2005-2010 Dodge Magnums, Chargers and Challengers, and Chrysler 300 sedans of the same model years. Owners of these vehicles are encouraged to check if their cars’ Takata airbags are included in the recall and to call 833-585-0144 to schedule tows and repairs free of charge.
Those with vehicles containing the recalled Takata airbags are also urged not to drive the cars until repairs are made. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is also offering to provide transportation to and from its service centers for affected drivers.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had initially issued its “Do Not Drive” warning in November, after two people were killed in separate accidents involving 2010 Dodge Chargers with defective Takata airbags. The recalled airbags can deteriorate over time, the NHTSA explained, especially when exposed to high heat and humidity.
“Left unrepaired, recalled Takata air bags are increasingly dangerous as the risk of an explosion rises as vehicles age,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said at the time. “Every day that passes when you don’t get a recalled airbag replaced, puts you and your family at greater risk of injury or death.”
When deployed, the recalled airbags can also send metal fragments toward the occupants of the car, resulting in situations that “can kill — and has — killed or maimed people,” the NHTSA said.
Stellantis, the parent company of Dodge and Chrysler, issued another statement following the NHTSA confirming the latest Takata-related fatality, reiterating its “Do Not Drive” warning and urging customers to get their vehicles repaired.
“We have the parts, and the service is free,” said Tom McCarthy, global head of Technical Safety and Regulatory Compliance at Stellantis, in a statement shared with Nexstar. “We will provide alternative transportation, also free, to help people get to and from our dealerships, as needed.”
As for the latest confirmed fatality, Stellantis said the vehicle owner actually inquired about a fix for the airbag issue in 2018 but declined to schedule the necessary repairs.
“We understand the holiday season is a busy time,” McCarthy said. “But nothing is more precious than family and friends who may also be exposed to danger by further delaying service which, again, is free.”
Overall, at least 24 deaths have been linked to the defective Takata airbags over the past two decades. Tens of millions of cars from various automakers have been recalled upon discovery of the issue in the mid-2010s, effectively making it the largest automobile recall in U.S. history.
The Takata Corporation declared bankruptcy in 2017. The company was acquired by Key Safety Systems the following year, Reuters reported.