Takata still producing ammonium nitrate airbags for Audi, Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota, VW

June 3, 2016

Last November, Takata finally agreed to stop using ammonium nitrate in airbag inflators by 2018. In fact, the company went a step further and promised to declare that all of its devices using that notoriously dangerous compound were defective unless Takata could prove otherwise by 2019.

Then, in February, a group of independent researchers beat Takata to the punch, proving that the combination of heat, humidity, and ammonium nitrate were to blame for scores of exploding Takata airbags, which have killed at least 11 people and injured more than 100.

Given that evidence and the huge number of recalls taking place in the U.S. and elsewhere, you might think that Takata would immediately halt production of airbag inflators employing ammonium nitrate--at least those without a dessicant to keep the compound dry.

But you'd be wrong. A congressional report from Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) shows that not only is Takata still making them, but four automakers are still installing them on new vehicles. 

Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Volkswagen have all admitted that they're equipping vehicles with Takata airbags that employ ammonium nitrate without a drying agent. Some of those models include the 2016 Audi TT, 2017 Audi R8, 2016 and 2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and 2016 Volkswagen CC.*

Oddly enough, selling those vehicles to consumers is perfectly legal--even though, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the cars will have to be recalled before the end of 2018 to have their airbag inflators replaced. At present, there's no requirement that dealerships warn buyers about the airbags or return-trip they'll soon make to the shop.

Whether that will change remains to be seen. However, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward Markey (D-MA) have called on automakers to reveal which vehicles currently in production make use of Takata's ammonium nitrate airbag inflators.

Meanwhile, in Japan, Takata has ruled out filing for bankruptcy and is instead looking for a buyer. Any takers? Looking at you, Nissan....

* It's important to note that airbag systems differ from automaker to automaker and from model to model. For example, of the millions of vehicles equipped with Takata airbag inflators, most fatalities have happened in Honda vehicles, and none have been recorded in Hondas since a redesign ordered in 2009. With proper venting and protection, the danger posed by Takata's inflators can be mitigated--though "mitigated" isn't the same as "eliminated".

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