Some new cars still include defective Takata airbags

Wed Jun 1, 2016 7:38pm EDT
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI: Quote), Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) and Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T: Quote) are still selling new vehicles with defective air bags that will eventually need to be recalled, according to a report by a U.S. lawmaker overseeing the agency handling the largest-ever auto safety recall.

Automakers confirmed they are continuing to sell some vehicles with ammonium-nitrate inflators without a chemical drying agent, and cited engineering and supply challenges to explain why they are still relying on the faulty airbags.

The vehicles are legal to sell but must be recalled by 2018. Legal experts said that based on previous cases, it was unclear if there could be additional legal liability for selling vehicles subject to future recalls, though if anything goes wrong with those vehicles, they could be subject to product-liability lawsuits.

The automakers and Takata have been hit with class-action lawsuits from owners, and Takata is the subject of a Justice Department criminal investigation.

The report by the top Democrat on the committee that oversees the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the latest to raise concerns about the massive recall of close to 70 million U.S. air bag inflators and nearly 100 million worldwide.

"This may be the first time in history where multiple automakers are selling brand new cars with a known, and potentially deadly, defect," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

Takata inflators can explode with excessive force and spray metal shrapnel. They are suspected in 13 deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries. There are no deaths or injuries reported in Takata inflators with a drying agent, NHTSA said.

It was not clear precisely how many new cars are being sold with defective inflators. The affected vehicles include the 2016-2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2016 Volkswagen CC, 2016 Audi TT and 2017 Audi R8.   Continued...

A logo of Takata Corp is seen with its display as people are reflected in a window at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo, November 6, 2015.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo