Faulty Takata airbags have claimed another life, prompting the Center for Auto Safety to issue an urgent request to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to reexamine the deadline extensions they gave several automakers to repair or replace the defective airbags. Ford confirmed that the July 2017 death of Steve Mollohan in a 2006 Ranger in Martinsburg, West Virginia, was caused by a ruptured Takata airbag inflator. The fatality brings the Takata airbag death total to 21 people worldwide, with hundreds more suffering gruesome injuries.
On November 3, 2015, the NHTSA ordered Honda, Ford, Mazda, BMW, and nine other automakers to complete repairs by specified deadlines. The Order placed the vehicles needing repairs into four categories, prioritized by the risk of violent airbag rupture. On December 9, 2016, the NHTSA added Mercedes Benz and six other makers of cars and trucks to the order, requiring them to repair their vehicles’ airbags. There are currently 12 priority groups based on age, location, and make and model.
Several automakers, including Ford, have requested extensions of their deadlines, claiming that they need more time to:
- Design, develop, and test safe replacement parts
- Obtain needed parts from Takata
- Locate vehicle owners
- Get owners to bring in their vehicles for the free repairs
On November 9, 2017, the NHTSA granted Ford, Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Mazda extensions of their deadlines for airbag repairs:
- Ford – vehicles in 26 recall groups
- Lincoln – vehicles in 11 recall groups
- Mercury – vehicles in 5 recall groups
- Mercedes Benz – vehicles in 60 recall groups
- BMW – vehicles in 16 recall groups
- Mazda – vehicles in 2 recall groups
Some of the new deadlines allow automakers to wait until September 30, 2019, to begin repairs. Given that the most recent reported death from a Takata airbag was the driver of a 2006 Ford Ranger in West Virginia (not considered a hot and humid location), the Center for Auto Safety questions the appropriateness of allowing further delays in remedying this dangerous situation. The Ford Ranger was in a group of vehicles that should have been in the recall process beginning four months before the driver’s death, under the previous deadlines. Another death previously occurred in a 2006 Ford Ranger in December 2015, putting Ford on notice three years ago that the airbag in the vehicle was dangerous.