For a while it seemed as if the long, drawn-out Takata airbag recall might be coming to an end. The complicated patchwork of driver-side and passenger-side airbag replacements, further segmented by geographic region, appeared to be coalescing into a more streamlined series of nationwide recalls.
Unfortunately, over the past couple of days, there's been more bad news regarding Takata's airbags -- news that's expected to cause headaches for five million U.S. vehicle owners.
The latest developments began when regulators confirmed that one of Takata's faulty airbags had been linked to a tenth driver death. The incident took place in South Carolina on December 22, 2015.
As if that weren't bad enough, the death occurred in a Ford Ranger pickup, making it the first to take place in a vehicle that wasn't manufactured by Honda.
That fact, combined with results of new tests carried out on a broader range of Takata airbags, has led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to call for an expansion of the Takata recall. The expansion will involve replacement of driver-side airbags on more than five million U.S. vehicles.
That brings the total number of U.S. vehicles affected by the Takata recall to 24 million -- fewer than the 34 million initially feared, but still one of the biggest automotive recalls on record.
But wait, it gets worse: the new, broader range of airbags investigated will drag four automakers into the recall fiasco that had previously escaped involvement: Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, and Volkswagen. The expansion also includes vehicles from BMW, Ford, Honda, and Mazda, all of which had already issued Takata-related recall notices.
Worse still? The Ford Ranger death and NHTSA's ongoing tests only confirm the agency's belief that all Takata airbags equipped with ammonium nitrate propellant are dangerous to consumers. As tests continue, NHTSA may request that tens of millions more vehicles be added to the recall list between now and 2018.
NHTSA hasn't yet updated its list of recalled makes and models to reflect the five million new vehicles mentioned above. When it does, though, you'll find it on NHTSA's dedicated Takata recall page.