WASHINGTON — In yet another warning to consumers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 90 percent of vehicles with defective Takata airbag inflators remain unrepaired.
Approximately 17 million vehicles with defective Takata airbags have been recalled since 2008 and just under 2 million of those have been fixed as of December 31, according to NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge.
"This is an effort to inform consumers," Trowbridge said in a recent media conference call. "Please remind your readers that they can use the VIN search on safercar.gov. Please encourage them to watch the mail. If they receive that (recall) notice, make an immediate appointment to have the vehicle repaired."
The defective airbag inflators can rupture in a collision, spewing shrapnel at vehicle occupants.
NHTSA continues to urge owners of certain vehicles from BMW, FCA US (formerly the Chrysler Group), Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota to replace the airbags as soon as possible.
Efforts to replace the faulty airbags have been stalled as Takata continues to scramble to supply automakers and dealers with replacement parts.
Federal safety regulators on Friday hit Takata with a $14,000-per-day fine for failing to fully cooperate with a probe of the defective airbags.
"A large number of vehicles with dangerous safety issues from defective Takata airbags have been recalled," they said in a joint statement. "We cannot tolerate delays or limited cooperation when people's lives are at stake. Takata must immediately do everything possible to aid federal safety regulators and automakers in determining what is wrong and what needs to be done to expeditiously replace airbags that could cause serious injury or the loss of life."
Trowbridge offered additional advice to affected consumers who are awaiting a recall notice, including whether it is wise to disable the airbags prior to a repair.
"While disabling a defective airbag is not illegal, no one should ever ride in a passenger seat with a disabled airbag," he said. "You should never disable a driver's-side airbag."
Edmunds says: It's a good idea for owners of these vehicles to stay in close touch with their dealer as parts become available.