Certain 2016 Toyota Prius vehicles are being recalled to address an issue with their airbags.
Not related to the ongoing massive Takata airbag recall, this issue affects approximately 7,600 units in the U.S. and involves a component in the airbag assembly that may have been improperly welded and/or misassembled.
According to the Japanese automaker, the front passenger airbag contains stored, compressed gas in the inflator and if the assembly has been improperly welded or misassembled, the stored gas may escape without a deployment signal and result in the partial inflation of the airbag.
The condition has been observed when the vehicle is parked and unoccupied for a period of time. If the airbag inflates in this manner, it can under some circumstances, increase the risk of injury and the possibility of a crash.
All affected owners will be notified by first class mail starting November, Toyota has announced. The automaker’s dealers will replace the front passenger airbag assembly with a new one free of charge.
According to NHTSA, as of May 20, 2016, a total of 8,432,805 airbags have been replaced. June 2, 2016: Audi, BMW, General Motors, Jaguar/Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz have added nearly 2.5 million more U.S. vehicles to the list of cars with defective Takata airbags.
Vehicles made by 14 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both in what NHTSA has called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.” The airbags, made by major parts supplier Takata, were mostly installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2015. Some of those airbags could deploy explosively, injuring or even killing car occupants.
At the heart of the problem is the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which in some cases has ignited with explosive force. If the inflator housing ruptures in a crash, metal shards from the airbag can be sprayed throughout the passenger cabin—a potentially disastrous outcome from a supposedly life-saving device.
NHTSA has determined the root cause of the problem: airbags that use ammonium nitrate-based propellant without a chemical drying agent. As postulated early on, environmental moisture, high temperatures, and age as associated with the defect that can improperly inflate the airbags and even send shrapnel into the occupant. To date, there have been 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries due to this problem in the U.S.
Through various announcements, the recall has tripled in size over the past year. It currently stands at more than 100 million vehicles worldwide with airbag inflators needing to be replaced before 2019.
The safety agency has not yet announced the vehicles that are included in the expansion. NHTSA will consult the affected automakers to determine a rollout schedule for the recall, prioritizing the highest-risk vehicles.