Takata, which you've probably never heard of before this week, is a Japanese company that makes auto parts and is the fourth biggest manufacturer of airbags in the world. Turns out it has been making airbags that can explode, shooting shrapnel into drivers' faces and torsos, and has already been blamed for killing at least five people in the U.S. alone. An additional death in Malaysia has also been connected to a faulty Takata airbag.
Police and medical professionals who arrived at the scenes of what they thought were everyday car accidents were perplexed when victims looked like they had been either shot or stabbed. Those injuries were later traced back to exploding shrapnel from Takata airbags. There's at least one report of an airbag exploding spontaneously rather than as the result of an airbag being deployed in an accident.
Now, finally, after mounting pressure and more than $1 million in fines for its lack of cooperation with the safety investigation, Takata announced a sweeping recall of its airbags. This could be the largest consumer recall in history — so far about 34 million cars. But that number is likely to climb as car manufacturers sift through their records to tally exactly how many cars are on the road with these deadly airbags.
U.S. car manufacturers that install Takata airbags include a hefty slice of cars on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's site dedicated to the recall. Ten carmakers, including BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota, have vehicles on the road with potentially deadly Takata airbags.
Here's a VIN search tool, where you can add in your specific vehicle's information and find out if you and your family are at risk. But again, carmakers are continuing to add vehicles to the recall all the time as they go over their records, so you might want to go back a couple of times to make sure your car is safe to drive.
Here's a video showing exactly what happens when a Takata airbag explodes.
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