CARS.COM — Toyota said Thursday that two 2016 SUVs, the Toyota 4Runner and Lexus GX 460, still have the most concerning group of Takata airbag inflators. Of cars still potentially in dealer inventory, Toyota says any 2015 versions of those SUVs also have the inflators, as do the 2015 Lexus IS 250C and IS 350C convertibles and the 2015 Scion xB. (Lexus and Scion are both Toyota divisions.)
The devices at issue are Takata's ammonium nitrate inflators without a drying agent known as a desiccant. Toyota said inflators in these vehicles all involve the front-passenger airbags. None of them are yet part of Takata's massive recall campaign, but eventually they will be recalled under a May 4 order by federal regulators to recall in phases every Takata ammonium nitrate inflator without desiccant.
The automaker said no other current U.S. models employ such inflators. The inflators have the potential to degrade and then rupture with too much force, sending shrapnel throughout the car's cabin. Federal officials say that the causes of the degradation are exposure to high humidity and high temperatures over at least six to nine years, with age being the most critical factor. The ruptures have been blamed for at least 13 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide.
Reuters reports that Toyota told dealers today to notify buyers at the point of sale for these vehicles that they have an affected inflator and eventually will be recalled. A U.S. Senate commerce committee report released June 1 named Toyota as one of at least four automakers — along with Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Mitsubishi — that still build cars with Takata's non-desiccated ammonium nitrate inflators.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who has pushed for such disclosure, praised Toyota's move as a "positive step for consumers," according to Reuters. But U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told Congress at an oversight hearing this week that he has no legal authority to force other automakers to follow suit with such disclosure of likely future recalls.
Some ammonium nitrate inflators include desiccant, a moisture inhibitor that Takata claims mitigates the risk of rupture. The deaths so far have only been linked to non-desiccated inflators, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered the airbag supplier to stop making ammonium nitrate airbags altogether.
Still, the Senate's June 1 report found that of the automakers that had begun installing replacement inflators as of March, all used at least some Takata ammonium nitrate inflators as replacements — and of the 4.6 million replacement inflators installed, at least 2.1 million are non-desiccated ammonium nitrate devices. That's the most rupture-prone group and NHTSA has ordered Takata to replace all of them again by the end of 2019 through the phased recalls that prioritize the oldest and most at-risk vehicles.