Like an evil blob of goo from a low-budget 1950s horror film, the long list of vehicles recalled to replace Takata's fatally flawed airbags keeps on growing, and there's no sign that it's slowing. A newly published update from Toyota brings the total number of Toyota and Lexus owners affected by the recall to more than 2.9 million -- and that's just in the U.S.
You could be forgiven for losing track of the ins and outs, ups and downs of the long, complicated Takata recall. To bring you up to speed, here are some bulletpoints:
- In the 1990s, Takata began using ammonium nitrate to inflate its airbags. Though it's cheap, ammonium nitrate is also notoriously unstable, and after several instances of the compound being used in terrorist bombs (including the one that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City in 1995), its sale is now regulated by the federal government.
- Ammonium nitrate's instability has caused many Takata airbags to explode upon deployment, often pelting vehicle occupants with shrapnel in the process. To date, more than 100 injuries and seven deaths have been linked to the devices. (NB: All deaths have occurred in Honda vehicles, which isn't surprising, since Honda is Takata's biggest customer.)
- Analysts are in near-complete agreement that moisture intrusion is the underlying problem with the ammonium nitrate in Takata's airbags. That's the good news. The bad news is that that has allowed Takata to insist on limiting recalls to specific areas of the planet where high humidity is common -- for example, along the U.S. Gulf Coast. That's not just dangerous, it's also made the recall especially confusing for consumers.
- As if that weren't bad enough, recalls have been split between driver-side devices and those on the passenger-side. For some time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has suggested that driver-side airbags need to be replaced nationwide, but recalls of passenger-side devices can be limited to high-humidity areas. That's made things doubly-confusing.
- In May, after several months of racking up $14,000-a-day fines for its lack of cooperation, Takata finally relented and agreed to nationwide recalls (though the company still insists that ammonium nitrate is, like, totally safe). Since then, automakers who've used the airbags have been expanding their recalls rosters and notifying owners from coast to coast about the changes.
Now, Toyota has updated its own lists, adding more than 1.3 million vehicles to the grand total of cars, trucks, and SUVs that need to have their airbags replaced. This update, however, only concerns passenger-side devices: driver-side airbags are covered by separate recalls. Vehicles added include:
- 2003-2007 Toyota Corolla
- 2003-2007 Toyota Corolla Matrix (aka the Toyota Matrix)
- 2005-2006 Toyota Tundra
- 2005-2007 Toyota Sequoia
- 2003-2007 Lexus SC430
With the roughly 1.6 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles already recalled, the total number of Toyota and Lexus owners now affected stands around 2,915,000.
Toyota will notify owners of this recall expansion by first-class mail. After receiving a recall notice, owners will be able to take their vehicles to a Toyota or Lexus dealer, where the passenger-side airbag inflator will be replaced free of charge.
Not sure if your vehicle is included in this recall? Visit Toyota.com/recall and enter your car's vehicle identification number (VIN). You can do the same thing on NHTSA's website at Safercar.gov/vin. If you have further questions, you're encouraged to contact Toyota Customer Service at 800-331-4331 or Lexus Customer Service at 800-255-3987.