3rd Air Bag Death Prompts Warning to Drivers of Older Chrysler, Dodge Vehicles

2010 Chrysler 300.

Stellantis and federal regulators say a third person has died in a crash involving an older Chrysler or Dodge vehicle as a result of an exploding Takata air bag, prompting an urgent warning that owners not drive those vehicles until they’re repaired.

The latest fatality involved a 2010 Chrysler 300 and a ruptured driver’s side air bag inflator, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a news release Dec. 19. The agency noted a total of five people, apparently also involving vehicles from other automakers, have been killed in such crashes this year.

The company said the problem is related to chemical properties that "may deteriorate over time, particularly if exposed to hot, humid climates."

On Dec. 19, Stellantis, through its U.S. operating arm FCA US, reiterated an alert from November, when it issued a “Do Not Drive” warning for 276,000 2005-2010 Dodge Magnums, Chargers, Challengers and Chrysler 300s. At that point, authorities had confirmed the deaths of two people in separate crashes involving exploding Takata air bags in 2010 Dodge Chargers.

The company said owners or custodians of the vehicles should call 833-585-0144 to have them towed, free of charge, for service, which is also free.

“Time is a critical element here because the risk increases with each day these air-bag inflators go unreplaced,” said Tom McCarthy, global head of Technical Safety and Regulatory Compliance at Stellantis, in the company news release. “We have the parts, and the service is free. We will provide alternative transportation, also free, to help people get to and from our dealerships, as needed.”

In the most recently confirmed incident, the company said it notified NHTSA of the third fatality on Dec. 16.

“The vehicle’s owner inquired with the company about the driver-side air bag recall in 2018, but then declined an opportunity to schedule the free service at a dealership. FCA US continued to send urgent notifications to this owner through 2022, contributing to a total of 114 outreach attempts over a seven-year period,” the release said. “In July, the owner loaned the vehicle to a family member who was subsequently killed in a crash when the driver-side air bag ruptured on deployment.”

The company said it extends its sympathies to the families and friends of those affected by the confirmed Takata-related fatalities.

Stellantis spokesman Eric Mayne said the company is not divulging identities out of respect for the families "and we’re not disclosing additional make/model or location info to avoid conveying the message that only certain vehicles in certain states need repair. All the vehicles in the stop-drive population need immediate attention, wherever they are registered."

NHTSA said it urges all vehicle owners to check to see whether their vehicle has an open Takata air bag recall, and if so, to schedule a free repair as soon as possible.

The agency said “even minor crashes can result in exploding air bags that can kill or produce life-altering injuries.”

We thank the Detroit Free Press for reprint permission.

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