The controversy surrounding Takata airbags has grown bigger and bigger, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expanding the recall order over the potentially fatal safety components by an additional 35 million to 40 million units early last month.
The additional units are added to a massive recall involving 28.8 million inflators, which is said to be the largest in the history of the United States automobile industry. The inflators have the risk of exploding upon activation, sending metal shrapnel into the vehicle's cabin.
Despite the recall actions, the nightmare is far from over. New reports reveal that new cars being manufactured are still being fitted with the defective Takata airbags, further endangering the public.
According to a new Senate report, four major automobile manufacturers, namely Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen, are continuing to install the faulty Takata airbags into their newest vehicles.
The companies have confirmed that they are still using the faulty inflators, which use ammonium nitrate compounds without chemical drying agents, and they are doing so because of supply and engineering challenges.
The cars fitted by the faulty airbags are not breaking any regulations if they are sold. However, they will be recalled by 2018, and it is unclear whether the car companies will be liable for selling these cars that are subject to be recalled in the future.
"This may be the first time in history where multiple automakers are selling brand new cars with a known, and potentially deadly, defect," said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer.
A total of 13 fatalities have been linked to the defective Takata airbags, along with over 100 injuries. Inflators with a chemical drying agent, however, have been linked to no deaths or injuries.
According to Volkswagen, the 2016 Volkswagen CC, the 2016 Audi TT and the 2017 Audi R8 contain the defective Takata airbags. For Mitsubishi, the models that have the potentially fatal components installed are the 2016 and 2017 models of its i-MiEV electric vehicle.
Fiat Chrysler and Toyota, on the other hand, have refused to reveal the new vehicles that have the risky inflators installed. Fiat Chrysler only mentioned that at least one of the company's current models has the Takata airbag on its passenger side, while Toyota said that it expects to manufacture around 175,000 vehicles with the Takata airbag for the United States until July 2017.
The newer versions of the Takata airbags to be found in these new vehicles, however, are considered safer due to being fresh, as ammonium nitrate takes time to break down. Still, it is troubling to see car companies sell vehicles that will be part of a recall order in a couple of years.