Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has some good news for consumers and bad news for Takata shareholders: by the end of next week, FCA will stop using Takata-brand airbags that are due to be recalled by 2019.
Those airbags employ ammonium nitrate to inflate the devices during crashes. Unfortunately, that compound becomes very unstable when exposed to heat and moisture, and when it becomes unstable, it can cause airbags to explode upon deployment. To date, Takata's airbags have been linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries.
Last year, Takata promised to wind down its use of ammonium nitrate and to recall all airbags that employ the compound by 2019, unless it could prove that ammonium nitrate is safe. Unfortunately for Takata, third-party researchers have crushed the company's ability to persuade anyone of the compound's safety.
And yet, Takata keeps producing airbag inflators that are doomed to be recalled. As we reported earlier this month, Audi, Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and VW have continued to use those inflators in new models.
Last week, Toyota ordered dealers to inform consumers about the presence of those airbags in cars they might be considering. Meanwhile, FCA now says that in the U.S., it will stop using Takata's non-dessicated ammonium nitrate inflators by July 1. Elsewhere in the world, such inflators will be phased out by mid-September.
Making the switch to a different inflator won't be hard for FCA--at least not in the U.S. The only model that currently employs the non-dessicated Takata inflator is the 2016 Jeep Wrangler, where it's used on the passenger's side. Thankfully, there have been no reports of airbag explosions in FCA vehicles, and tests have found no failures in older versions of the devices.
FCA says that most airbag inflators on its vehicles make use of other propellants, though some employ dessicated ammonium nitrate.