Ford Motor Co. is cooperating with U.S. auto safety regulators investigating a report that the driver of a 2007 Ford Mustang was injured in North Carolina last August by metal shrapnel from a Takata airbag that exploded with excessive force.
“The air bag deployed with abrupt force and a metal fragment dislodged, causing injury to the driver’s leg, which required medical attention,” the complaint, filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Oct. 30, said. The airbag deployed when the Mustang, traveling about 35 mph “crashed into the rear end of another vehicle.”
The Mustang at the center of the investigation was included in a June recall that affected millions of vehicles made by nine auto manufacturers. All of the recalled vehicles were installed with airbags made by Japanese supplier Takata, which contain faulty inflators that can cause airbags to explode, blasting fragments of the device into the car’s interior.
Defective Takata airbags have even deployed in relatively mild collisions, such as low-speed fender benders, or have not deployed at all in more serious crashes.
Recalls of the affected vehicles have been limited to a few high-humidity states and regions of the U.S., sparking outcries from legislators and safety advocates who say the Takata airbags can, and have, exploded in other regions not considered to be highly humid, such as North Carolina.
The report of the 2007 Ford Mustang exploding airbag incident prompted NHTSA regulators to finally push automakers to expand recalls of vehicles fitted with Takata airbags on the driver’s side in all U.S. states and territories.
Ford recalled 58,669 vehicles for airbag problems in June and then expanded its recall in October to 85,023 vehicles, including approximately 61,000 2005-2008 Mustangs; 23,700 2004-2005 Ford Ranger pickup trucks; and 256 2005-2006 Ford GT sports cars.
In response to the complaint, Ford said in a statement Sunday that “Based on the field reports and testing currently available, the Takata airbag inflator designs used in Ford vehicles have not shown the same risk of fragmentation as other Takata airbag inflator designs used by other manufacturers.
“We are continuing to investigate this issue, and we are cooperating fully with NHTSA and Takata,” Ford’s statement said.