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Owners of 2003 Ram pickups urged to stop driving them after another Takata air bag inflator death

By TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
Published: July 11, 2023, 7:43am

DETROIT (AP) — Stellantis is urging the owners of about 29,000 older Dodge Ram pickups to stop driving them after a passenger was killed by an exploding Takata air bag inflator.

The company says owners of the 2003 model year pickups should contact a dealer or the company to find out if their trucks are part of a massive Takata recall. Stellantis says the trucks shouldn’t be driven until repairs are made.

The company says the person was killed in a May 13 crash that caused the air bags to inflate. It wouldn’t say where the crash happened or identify the victim. The person “succumbed to a serious injury consistent with those observed in previous Takata inflator failures,” Stellantis said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

The death is the 26th in the U.S. since May of 2009, and more than 30 people have been killed worldwide. The May death is believed to be the first person killed by an exploding front passenger air bag inflator. The rest of the deaths were drivers.

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 sharp shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

Most of the deaths and about 400 injuries have happened in U.S., but they also have occurred in Australia and Malaysia.

Potential for the dangerous malfunction led to the largest series of auto recalls in U.S. history, with at least 67 million Takata inflators involved. The U.S. government says that millions have not been repaired. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide. The exploding air bags sent Takata Corp. of Japan into bankruptcy.

Stellantis says it will provide free transportation to help people and their vehicles get to and from dealerships.

The company says the May death is the fourth in its vehicles. The pickups were recalled in 2015, and six notices were sent to the owner’s home, but the recall repairs weren’t done.

Last year Stellantis told owners of Chrysler 300s and Dodge Magnums, Chargers and Challengers from model years 2005 through 2010 should stop driving them after three other deaths were reported.

The company says about 233,000 of the vehicles haven’t been repaired and remain on the road despite numerous attempts to reach owners.

Owners of all vehicles can check to see if their cars are covered by Takata recalls by going to https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and keying in their 17-digit vehicle identification number.

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