Fiat Chrysler said over the weekend it is recalling more than 88,000 vehicles that it “inadvertently excluded” from a May recall to repair defective airbags made by Japanese supplier Takata. The faulty airbags are prone to explode with deadly force and have been installed in nearly 34 million vehicles.
The latest recall involves 88,436 model-year 2008-2010 Dodge Challengers manufactured between September 2007 and October 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSA) said in a notice. Auto safety regulators announced the recall about a month after announcing they had identified all of the vehicles equipped with the flawed Takata airbags.
Fiat Chrysler discovered the error in while conducting an audit. The delay in identifying and recalling the affected Challengers reinforces the image Fiat Chrysler has already made for itself of being too slow to recognize and repair safety issues in its vehicles.
NHTSA held a special hearing on July 2 to look at how the automaker handled about two dozen safety recalls encompassing some 11 million vehicles, tentatively concluding that “it failed to adequately respond to vehicle defects.”
“In my experience, Fiat Chrysler’s recall performance often differs from that of its peers,” Scott Yon, chief of NHTSA’s Vehicle Integrity Division, said during the hearing. “Fiat Chrysler takes a long time to produce the parts needed to get vehicles fixed. Their dealers have difficulty getting parts for recalls. Their customers have trouble getting recall repairs done. Fiat Chrysler’s recall remedies sometimes fail to remedy the defects they are supposed to fix.”
Anyone who owns a vehicle they suspect is subject to a safety recall should enter their 17-digit VIN on SaferCar.gov, which will list all the recalls associated with the specific vehicle.
The Takata airbag recall is the largest automotive recall in history, and it may take several weeks or months before the needed parts are available and the repairs can be made.
Fiat Chrysler says that its dealers will replace the front-seat airbags, but has no specific timeline as Takata is limited to producing a maximum of 450,000 replacement parts per month. The company plans to boost output to nearly one million parts per month by September.
Another problem with the Takata recall is that the company still has not identified what causes some of its airbags to explode, sending pieces of its metal canister through the vehicle like shrapnel. Some engineers and other experts say the ammonium nitrate used in the device’s inflator mechanism is too volatile, but Takata disputes that claim.
Because Takata doesn’t know what exactly is wrong with its airbags, it can’t be certain that the problem is being corrected by the current repair. Earlier this summer, automakers recalled some 400,000 vehicles that were repaired through previous Takata airbag recalls.
The Takata airbag defect has been linked to eight deaths and more than 100 injuries. The fatality and injury toll is expected to rise as most of the affected vehicles remain on the road.