An in-depth look at the Takata airbag recall

Posted at 7:21 PM, Aug 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-06 01:05:15-04

It's the largest safety recall in the history of the United States.

So far, 10 people have died and hundreds of others have been injured in the U.S. when the Takata airbag in their vehicles ruptured.

While some people are being offered loaners as they wait for the parts to come in, others are stuck in neutral.

Andrew Stoll, who lives in Prairie Village, got a letter in the mail in April stating his Volkswagen Passat is part of the recall.

"I called them immediately and I've called them several times since," Stoll said. "They told me they can't do anything about it."

While Stoll's car sits in the driveway, waiting for a fix to arrive, he and his wife Haley celebrated the arrival of their baby girl.

But, the excitement also comes with some anxiety. Both Andrew and Haley work full-time jobs. Haley is a physician's assistant and Andrew is a professor.  

They're down to one car, which works in the meantime while Haley is on maternity leave.

"When she does go back to work it's going to be a tough situation," Stoll said.

More than 100 million vehicles have been recalled from 14 different automakers worldwide.

The problem lies within the airbag's inflator. A chemical drying agent used in the airbags can cause it to deteriorate. If a vehicle gets into an accident, even something as small as a fender bender can cause the inflator to explode, sending deadly shrapnel throughout the vehicle.

Kaitlin Drennan drives a 2011 Acura RDX, which is also on the recall list. However, she was offered a loaner.

"I travel a lot to work, so I don't want to drive every day and have six months of a potential risk while they figure out what they're going to do about it," Drennan said.

Why are some people offered loaners while others are not?

When it comes to getting a free loaner vehicle while waiting for the parts to come in, it all depends on who the automaker is. They're not required to offer alternate transportation in the event of a recall.

The 41 Action News investigators called around to some local Volkswagen dealerships to see what their policies are, but we were told to contact their corporate office.

Our calls went unreturned.

Vehicle priority list

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has created a list of vehicles that are top priority when it comes to getting fixed. Volkswagen isn't on it. 

Click here to read the full list

According to the NHTSA, older style Hondas are the most likely to have airbag issues.

Aside from the make of the vehicle, where a person lives makes a difference. The inflators are more likely to rupture when driven in high humidity, high temperature areas.

The NTSHA has created a list of priority areas, narrowed down to three zones:

Zone A includes Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan), and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Zone B includes Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Zone C includes Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming

Automakers continue to sell new vehicles with faulty airbags

Several automakers are still selling new vehicles with faulty airbags, according to a Senate Commerce Committee report issued in June.

Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen all reported that some of their new vehicles were being installed with non-desiccated Takata airbags. It's the same type of airbag that is responsible for nearly all deaths and injuries, according to the report.

While all the vehicles will be recalled by 2018, automakers are not required to tell buyers about the problem. However, regulators say the new vehicles don't put drivers in immediate danger because it takes years for the airbag to deteriorate.

Is your vehicle part of the recall?

Just because you don't receive a letter in the mail, does not mean your vehicle is not part of the recall.

You can check to see if your vehicle is on the list by typing your VIN into SaferCar.

Should you drive your recalled vehicle?

According to the NTSHA, most Takata airbags will function how they're supposed to. However, it's up to each individual to make the decision to drive their car based on their own level of comfort.

For the Stoll family, they'd rather deal with the hassle than run the risk.

"I don't want [my daughter] in the car at all," Andrew Stoll said. "It's just not worth the risk doing it."


Jessica McMaster can be reached at

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