Stellantis and the US government on Thursday warned owners of 276,000 older vehicles to stop driving them after Takata air bags apparently exploded in three more vehicles, killing the drivers. The company formerly known as Fiat Chrysler is telling people to stop driving Dodge Magnum wagons, Dodge Challenger and Charger muscle cars, and Chrysler 300 sedans from the 2005 through 2010 model years, the AP reports. Stellantis said it confirmed the driver's air bag inflators blew apart in two cases, killing two drivers of 2010 Dodge Chargers. The company said it suspects an inflator rupture in another case that also killed a driver of an unspecified 2010 Dodge.
All three deaths were in warm-weather US states and happened in the past seven months, the company said. The fatalities bring the death toll from exploding Takata air bags to at least 32 worldwide, including 23 in the United States. Takata used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags in a crash. But the chemical can become more volatile over time when exposed to moisture in the air and repeated high temperatures. The explosion can rupture a metal canister and hurl shrapnel into the passenger compartment. Most of the deaths and about 400 injuries have happened in US states with warmer weather.
The Stellantis vehicles under the “Do Not Drive” warning were all recalled in 2015, and free repairs were available since then. The recalls affect vehicles in which the air bag inflators have not been replaced as part of the recall; Stellantis said it made numerous attempts to reach owners. In the three recent cases in which people were killed, Stellantis said it made 153 attempts to reach owners. Stellantis said any of its customers who aren’t sure if their vehicles have been recalled can call (833) 585-0144. Owners can call the hotline to arrange to have their cars towed to a dealership, and for alternate transportation, the company said.
"Left unrepaired, recalled Takata air bags are increasingly dangerous as the risk of an explosion rises as vehicles age," Ann Carlson, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in a statement. “Every day that passes when you don't get a recalled air bag replaced puts you and your family at greater risk of injury or death." NHTSA urged all owners to check to see if their vehicles have an unrepaired Takata air bag recall. Drivers can go to https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and key in their 17-digit vehicle identification number to see if they have any open recalls. (Read more air bag stories.)