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After Dodge driver was killed by exploding airbag, company urges Ram owners to stop driving certain models

The driver of a 2003 Dodge Ram was killed by an exploding Takata airbag inflator on May 13, 2023. Now the company is urging drivers of certain rams to stop driving the vehicles.

Stellantis and the U.S. government are urging the owners of some 2003 Dodge Ram pickups to stop driving them after a passenger was killed by an exploding Takata air bag inflator.

The company says owners of the pickups should contact a dealer or the company to find out if their trucks are part of a 2015 Takata recall. Stellantis says the trucks shouldn't be driven until repairs are made.

The company says the person was killed in a May 13 crash that caused the air bags to inflate. Neither Stellantis nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would say where the crash happened or identify the victim. The person "succumbed to a serious injury consistent with those observed in previous Takata inflator failures," Stellantis said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

The death is the 26th in the U.S. since May of 2009, and more than 30 people have been killed worldwide. NHTSA said the death was the first due to an exploding front passenger air bag inflator. The rest of the deaths were drivers.

Takata used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags in a crash. But the chemical can become more volatile over time when exposed to moisture in the air and repeated high temperatures. The explosion can rupture a metal canister and hurl sharp shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

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Most of the deaths and about 400 injuries have happened in U.S., but they also have occurred in Australia and Malaysia.

Potential for the dangerous malfunction led to the largest series of auto recalls in U.S. history, with at least 67 million Takata inflators involved. The U.S. government says that millions have not been repaired. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide. The exploding air bags sent Takata Corp. of Japan into bankruptcy.

Stellantis says it will provide free transportation to help people and their vehicles get to and from dealerships.

The company says 29,000 of the recalled pickups are still on the road but haven't been repaired. However NHTSA estimates that there are 84,000. In 2015 the company recalled more than 385,000 of the trucks.

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"The older a defective Takata air bag inflator gets, the more dangerous it becomes," Acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson said in a written statement. "Please get your air bag replaced now for your sake, and for the sake of those who love you."

The agency says even minor crashes can make the air bags explode and kill people or cause serious injuries.

Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, says the May death is the fourth in its vehicles. It says that six notices were sent to the owner's home, but the recall repairs weren't done.

Last year Stellantis told owners of Chrysler 300s and Dodge Magnums, Chargers and Challengers from model years 2005 through 2010 should stop driving them after three other deaths were reported.

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The company says about 233,000 of the vehicles haven't been repaired and remain on the road despite numerous attempts to reach owners.

NHTSA is urging owners of all vehicles to check to see if they have an unrepaired Takata air bag recall. Owners can go to https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and key in their 17-digit vehicle identification number.

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