Toyota is telling some owners of 2004-2005 RAV4 crossovers, 2003-2005 Corolla sedans, and 2003-2005 Matrix wagons not to drive their cars due to potentially lethal Takata airbags that haven’t yet been replaced under recall. Oh, and since the 2003 to 2004 Pontiac Vibe is essentially a Matrix in a pair of Oakley sunglasses, it’s getting the same treatment.
The Detroit News reports that “about 50,000 Toyotas” are affected in America, and that’s just one jurisdiction. Canadian outlet Global News reports that approximately an additional 7,300 vehicles are still affected north of the border, bringing the grand total to roughly 57,000 cars before Pontiac Vibes are even factored in.
For the Corolla, the first shrapnel-related recall came about on May 13, 2015. That’s almost nine years ago, even if it doesn’t feel quite that long. Shrapnel? Ah, yes. As a refresher, the Takata airbag scandal triggered one of the biggest automotive recalls ever due to airbags that don’t deploy properly. In the words of Toyota’s initial defect report:
The subject vehicles are equipped with front passenger air bag inflators (Takata-designated SPI, PSPI, or PSPI-L) which, according to the Part 573 Reports submitted by Takata, may have been manufactured in such a way as to have a potential for the intrusion of moisture over time. Depending on the circumstances, this potential condition could create excessive internal pressure when the air bag is deployed, which could result in the body of the inflator rupturing upon deployment. In the event of an inflator rupture, metal fragments could pass through the air bag cushion material, which may result in injury or death to vehicle occupants.
Translation? Some vehicle occupants are essentially sitting in front of Claymores. Now, you’d expect this sort of problem to send shivers down the spines of owners, encouraging them to bring their vehicles in for free airbag replacement.
While many have, there are still thousands of vehicles roaming the streets with potentially deadly recalled Takata airbags, and due to the age of affected vehicles, it’s likely some of the most vulnerable drivers on the road are behind the wheel.
Today, many of these Toyotas are cheap cars that have either been passed down through inheritance or depreciation to people who don’t have a lot of money but still need to get around. They might not be able to find the time to get the recall fix done, as they’re so focused on putting food on the table. It’s also worth noting that some of these 50,000 cars might not be on the road in America anymore. Some may have been shipped overseas, others sent to the junkyard and not documented properly.
Whether news of some cars’ demises hasn’t made it back to manufacturers or some drivers just can’t time recall work in a way that works for them, both are signs that the systems put in place aren’t working optimally. Some dealerships don’t perform recall work on Saturdays and that needs to change. Some cars get lost in the system and that needs to change.
In any case, Toyota and GM are merely the latest manufacturers to slap do-not-drive warnings on Takata airbag-equipped cars, with Honda, BMW, and Dodge all having done so. As these restraint systems continue to age, it’s only a matter of time before more manufacturers join in.
(Photo credits: Toyota)
Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.