Ford expands ‘Do Not Drive’ warning to 33,000 more pickup trucks

A Ford logo is pictured at a store of the automaker, in Mexico City, Mexico, April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co on Monday warned an additional 33,000 owners of older pickup trucks in North America to stop driving them until potentially defective Takata Corp air bag inflators can be repaired.

In January, Ford told 2,900 owners of model year 2006 Ford Ranger trucks to stop driving immediately after a second death was linked to inflators built on the same day.

The expanded warning was prompted by additional testing, Ford, the second largest U.S. automaker, said in a statement, and now covers a broader time frame of production.

Mazda Motor Corp said it was issuing a similar expansion for about 1,800 2006 Mazda B-Series trucks that were built by Ford after it had issued a warning for 160 trucks in January.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the vehicles pose “an immediate risk to safety” and urged owners to immediately schedule a free repair.

Ford and Mazda have replacement air bag inflators available now and will tow vehicles to a dealership for repairs as well as provide loaner vehicles free of charge, the companies and NHTSA said. About 90 percent of the vehicles subject to the “Do Not Drive” warning are in the United States.

Two U.S. senators in January questioned why Ford’s warning only applied to a small number of the 391,000 2004-2006 Ranger trucks recalled because of Takata air bags in 2016 in the United States.

Ford said last month the death in a July 2017 crash in West Virginia in a 2006 Ford Ranger was caused by a defective Takata inflator after a similar 2015 death in South Carolina.

At least 22 deaths worldwide are linked to the Takata inflators that can rupture and send deadly metal fragments into the driver’s body.

The faulty inflators have led to the largest automotive recall in history. The other 20 deaths have occurred in Honda Motor Co vehicles, most of which were in the United States.

About a quarter of the 2,900 vehicles have been repaired since Ford issued the warning last month, the company said on Monday.

Takata said in June it has recalled, or expected to recall, about 125 million vehicles worldwide by 2019, including more than 60 million in the United States. About 19 automakers worldwide are affected.

Takata inflators can explode with excessive force, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks and have injured more than 200 people. The defect led Takata to file for bankruptcy protection in June.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Grant McCool and Jeffrey Benkoe)

New Takata air bag recall to cover 5 million U.S. vehicles

(Reuters) – U.S. regulators on Friday announced a new recall of about 5 million vehicles with potentially defective Takata Corp air bags, covering some automakers not previously affected by one of the biggest auto safety recalls in U.S. history.

The new action brings to 28 million the number of Takata air bag inflators recalled and increases the number of vehicles affected in the United States to as many as 24 million, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said.

Friday’s move was prompted in part by the death of the driver of a Ford Motor Co pickup truck last month, as well as new tests conducted on suspected faulty air bags.

Automakers affected for the first time include Volkswagen AG and its Audi unit and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit.

“This is a massive safety crisis,” NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge told reporters.

NHTSA in November said tens of millions of additional vehicles with inflators containing ammonium nitrate will be recalled by 2018 unless Takata can prove that they are safe.

The Dec. 22 death of a Georgia man in South Carolina was the 10th worldwide linked with Takata’s air bag inflators, NHTSA said. It was also the first to occur in a vehicle that was not made by Honda Motor Co.

The 5 million vehicles covered by the new recall include about 1 million with inflators similar to those installed on the Ford Ranger pickup, NHTSA said.

About 4 million other vehicles will be recalled due to additional testing on Takata air bags, including vehicles from Honda, VW and other automakers, the safety agency said.

Twelve major automakers have previously recalled more than 23 million Takata air bag inflators in more than 19 million vehicles in one of the largest and most complex safety recalls in U.S. automotive history.

NHTSA did not immediately say how many of the 5 million vehicles being recalled Friday may have been covered by previous recalls.

Takata’s inflators can explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into vehicle passenger compartments and are linked to more than 100 U.S. injuries.

A South Carolina attorney said in a complaint filed with NHTSA that his client was killed when “metal from the inflator canister exploded penetrating my client’s neck resulting in death.”

The attorney, Andrew Creech, said in the complaint, “There is no doubt airbag shrap (shrapnel) metal killed my client, as this has been confirmed by death certificate and autopsy report.”

The man killed in the 2006 Ford Ranger struck a cow that was in the road, Creech’s report to NHTSA said.

Creech was not available for comment on Friday.

In November, Takata agreed to pay a $70 million fine for safety violations and could face deferred penalties of up to $130 million under a NHTSA settlement.

NHTSA in December named a former Justice Department official as a monitor to help regulators oversee the massive recalls.

The Ford death is the first reported since the July crash of a 2001 Honda Accord coupe that killed a 13-year-old near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown)