Brand new cars are being sold with defective Takata airbags

Some replaced airbags will need to be replaced again.

  • Image Credit: Autoblog
If you just bought a 2016 Audi TT, 2017 Audi R8, 2016–17 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, or 2016 Volkswagen CC, we have some unsettling news for you. A report provided to a US Senate committee that oversees the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA) and reported on by Automotive News claims these vehicles were sold with defective Takata airbags. And it gets worse. Toyota and FCA are called out in the report for continuing to build vehicles that will need to be recalled down the line for the same issue.

That's not all. The report also states that of the airbags that have been replaced already in the Takata recall campaign, 2.1 million will need to eventually be replaced again. They don't have the drying agent that prevents the degradation of the ammonium nitrate, which can lead to explosions that can destroy the airbag housing and propel metal fragments at occupants. So these airbags are out there already.

We're not done yet. There's also a stockpile of about 580,000 airbags waiting to be installed in cars coming in to have their defective airbags replaced. These 580k airbags also don't have the drying agent. They'll need to be replaced down the road, too.

A new vehicle with a defective Takata airbag should be safe to drive, but that margin of safety decreases with time.

If all this has you spinning around in a frustrated, agitated mess, there's a silver lining that is better than it sounds. So take a breath, run your fingers through your hair, and read on.

Our best evidence right now demonstrates that defective Takata airbags – those without the drying agent that prevents humidity from degrading the ammonium nitrate propellant – aren't dangerous yet. It takes a long period of time combined with high humidity for them to reach the point where they can rupture their housing and cause serious injury.

It's a matter of years, not days. So a new vehicle with a defective Takata airbag should be safe to drive, but that margin of safety decreases with time – and six years seems to be about as early as the degradation happens in the worst possible scenario.

All this is small comfort for the millions of people who just realized their brand-new car has a time bomb installed in the wheel or dashboard, or the owners who waited patiently to have their airbags replaced only to discover that the new airbag is probably defective in the same way (although newer and safer!) as the old one. And at the very least, there's the added hassle of getting the defective airbag replaced in a new car or one that's already been retrofitted, which means more waiting for parts and time in the shop.

We realize these recalls have been expanded so frequently that many people are confused about how often to check to see if their car or truck is included. All we can do is empathize with owners of vehicles with defective airbags (and this includes more than a few Autoblog staffers) and point you to both your vehicle manufacturer's website and the NHTSA's VIN lookup tool. Also, check with your dealer and make sure your address is updated in their system so they can send you recall letters in the mail. All this is covered in our video below, so if you're concerned please give that a watch.

Car Recalls: Here's What You Should Do

Stay vigilant, and try to stay safe. This won't be the last troubling revelation in the ongoing Takata scandal.

An earlier version of this article indicated that Honda may have sold new cars with defective inflators. This is not the case, although certain replacement passenger airbags that were previously replaced under recall orders will have to be recalled again to be replaced. You may read Honda's full statement on the current state of the recall here.

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