Urgent warning over Toyota cars that can ‘shoot sharp metal fragments’ and kill drivers or passengers – as owners are told to immediately ‘stop driving’ them, are you affected?

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Toyota recalled more than 50k Corollas and RAV4s and 11k Pontiac Vibes
  • Models from 2003 to 2005 have parts that make airbags more likely to inflate
  • Airbags made by infamous Japanese firm Takata are linked to 26 deaths in the US

Toyota has issued an urgent ‘do not drive’ advisory on 61,000 vehicles fitted with dangerous Takata airbags, which can explode and hurl ‘sharp metal fragments’ at motorists.

The voluntary recall will impact 50,000 Toyotas – among them the 2003-2004 Corolla, the 2003-2004 Corolla Matrix and 2004-2005 RAV4.

Also covered are 11,000 Pontiac Vibes from 2003 and 2004, which are essentially the same car as the Matrix and made at the same California factory.

‘If the air bag deploys, a part inside is more likely to explode and shoot sharp metal fragments, which could cause serious injury or death to the driver or passengers,’ Toyota said in a statement.   

Airbags made by Japanese manufacturer Takata have been linked to 30 deaths worldwide, with 26 in the US – including that of Ford owner Hayden Jones Jr.

Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda speaks during a news conference in Nagoya, central Japan

Toyota on Monday put a 'do not drive' advisory on vehicles fitted with infamous Takata airbags. Pictured is a 2003 Corolla, which is one of the affected models

Toyota on Monday put a ‘do not drive’ advisory on vehicles fitted with infamous Takata airbags. Pictured is a 2003 Corolla, which is one of the affected models

The voluntary recall will impact 50,000 models - among them the 2003-2004 Corolla, the 2003-2004 Corolla Matrix and 2004-2005 RAV4 (pictured)

The voluntary recall will impact 50,000 models – among them the 2003-2004 Corolla, the 2003-2004 Corolla Matrix and 2004-2005 RAV4 (pictured)

Toyota and Pontiac said owners should contact a local dealer instead of driving the cars in for repairs. Dealers will provide options such as mobile repair, towing the car to a dealer, or vehicle pickup and delivery. 

So far it is a busy week for Toyota. The advisory was announced yesterday and today the company had to apologize for allegedly cheating on engine testing.

Takata is now bankrupt, but more than 100 million of its products went into vehicles made by more than a dozen automakers.

Toyota suggested its 20-year-old vehicles are only now implicated in the drama around Takata airbags because they contain a part that can fail with age. It said it will replace airbags in affected vehicles for free. 

Over the last decade, more than 67 million Takata airbag inflators have been recalled, making it the biggest auto safety callback in history.

Toyota said the RAV4 recall involves the driver’s airbag while the other recalls involve the front passenger airbag only.

In some Corolla and Corolla Matrix models, certain vehicles are also involved in a second recall that can cause the airbag to deploy even without a crash.

There have been prior ‘do not drive’ warnings issued by other automakers for vehicles with older Takata airbag inflators after fatal crashes.

A deployed Takata-manufactured airbag is seen on the driver's side of a 2007 Dodge Charger at a recycled auto parts lot in Detroit

A deployed Takata-manufactured airbag is seen on the driver’s side of a 2007 Dodge Charger at a recycled auto parts lot in Detroit

Takata is now bankrupt, but more than 100 million of it products went into vehicles made by more than a dozen automakers

Takata is now bankrupt, but more than 100 million of it products went into vehicles made by more than a dozen automakers

Chrysler-parent company Stellantis advised 29,000 owners of 2003 Dodge Ram pickups to immediately stop driving in July after a fatal incident involving a Takata airbag.

And in 2022, Stellantis urged owners of 276,000 other cars to stop driving after three other deaths linked to the bags were reported that year.

Honda last February similarly recalled 8,200 Acura and Honda vehicles after the airbag-related death of the driver of a 2002 Accord in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Honda alone has reported 17 US deaths and more than 200 injuries related to Takata inflator ruptures.

Ford Rangers have also been recalled – and are linked to the death of Hayden Jones Jr. 

When Florida Highway Patrol troopers arrived at a crash scene in the Panhandle this summer, they found a 23-year-old Navy officer dead at the wheel with neck wounds that initially looked like a possible shooting.

A trooper later messaged the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that injuries were from the deployment of an air bag in the 2006 Ford Ranger pickup in the July accident in Pensacola.

Though the NHTSA is investigating and hasn´t made a final determination yet, the family of Hayden Jones Jr. says there´s ample evidence the death was caused by an exploding Takata air bag. It would be the 20th such death in the United States – and would come six years after the start of a recall of that vehicle model.

The NHTSA recall notices for the 2006 Ford Ranger underline the urgency, saying owners shouldn’t drive these vehicles “unless you are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired.”

Ford says it notified the vehicle owner of the recall – even going to the owner’s home to try to schedule repairs – but the Jones family says it never received any recall notice from the manufacturer and has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Cases like this, in which needed repairs never happen, show the system is broken, said William Wallace, safety advocate for Consumer Reports. He said the recall system is weak in part because it relies heavily on owners keeping up to date with recall notices.

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