Officials issued the warning after two motorists died in separate crashes when the driver’s side airbag, manufactured by now-defunct Japanese auto parts company Takata, exploded with too much force.
Car owners should arrange for free repairs by contacting their local car dealers or the dedicated Fiat Chrysler Air Bag Recall Center at 833-585-0144. They should not drive their vehicles to get that service, federal officials said.
“Unrepaired, recalled Takata airbags are increasingly dangerous as the risk of an explosion increases as vehicles age. “Every day that goes by without getting a recalled air bag replaced puts you and your family at greater risk of injury or death,” Acting Administrator Ann Carlson of the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement. “An exploding Takata airbag can send metal fragments towards the driver or passengers, and this shrapnel can – and has – killed or maimed people.”
In a statement, Stellantis, Fiat Chrysler’s parent company, said it has an “adequate inventory of new airbags to meet demand.” The repair procedure takes less than one hour.
“Owners or custodians of these vehicles will be contacted directly, advised to stop driving their vehicles and encouraged to obtain the necessary service, which remains available free of charge at any certified FCA brand dealer,” the company said, referring to Fiat Chrysler vehicles .
Representatives for Joyson Safety Systems, which bought Takata in 2018, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since 2013, NHTSA has forced recalls of 67 million Takata airbags because of a defect that can cause them to explode with too much force, sometimes launching shrapnel at motorists.
Takata pleaded guilty in 2017 to criminal misdemeanors to resolve allegations that it covered up those deficiencies. The company paid a $1 billion fine, which included $125 million for a victim compensation fund and $850 million for automakers to fund repairs.