The Takata airbag recall is serious, and it appears problems could persist for years. The first recalls were issued a decade ago, with the 2003 Dodge Ram joining that list in 2015. Sadly, another airbag-related fatality was recently recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), prompting Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to issue a do-not-drive warning for 2003 Ram trucks that haven't had the airbag recall performed.
Specifically, passenger-side airbags across Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 models for 2003 are the concern. To refresh your memory, the airbag inflators could rupture when deployed, sending dangerous shrapnel into the passenger compartment. 385,686 vehicles were included in the recall; as of July 2023, NHTSA estimates that as many as 84,000 trucks could still have the original passenger airbags in place.
"The older a defective Takata airbag inflator gets, the more dangerous it becomes," said NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson. "Please, get your airbag replaced now for your sake, and for the sake of those who love you."
According to the NHTSA, the recent airbag-related fatality is the first to be reported from a 2003 Dodge Ram. The total number of deaths due to ruptured Takata inflators now stands at 26 in the United States. Worldwide that number is at least 35, and several automakers now have do-not-drive warnings issued for vehicles at risk. In May 2023, BMW issued warnings for the 2000-2006 3 Series, 2000-2004 X5, and 2000-2003 5 Series, covering 90,000 vehicles. Several Honda and Acura models from 2001-2003 received a warning in February 2003, and FCA issued warnings for 276,000 Dodges and Chryslers from 2005-2010.
From its onset in 2013, the Takata airbag recall is easily the largest of its kind in the history of the automobile. Over 42 million vehicles in the US alone are affected, and the financial fallout of over $1 billion in fines and compensation led to Takata's bankruptcy in 2018.