BMW is warning that around 90,000 older-model vehicles are too dangerous to drive because their airbags can explode metal shrapnel.
The vehicles were previously recalled due to the airbags, but so few were repaired that BMW escalated the warning to a “Do Not Drive” order.
The heightened warning involves 2000-2006 BMW 3 Series (E46) including M3, 2000-2003 5 Series (E39) including M5, and 2000-2004 X5s (E53).
These vehicles were built with airbag inflators made by Takata Corp., a Japanese company that went bankrupt after recalling 67 million airbag inflators worldwide since 2016.
More than 33 deaths and 400 injuries have been linked to Takata airbag inflators, mostly in the U.S. but also Australia and Malaysia.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called the risk “dire” due to the “extremely high probability of failing during a crash.”
Even minor fender-benders could be deadly, according to NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson:
“These inflators are two decades old now, and they pose a 50% chance of rupturing in even a minor crash. Don’t gamble with your life or the life of someone you love – schedule your free repair today before it’s too late.”
The problem is that the inflators were made with ammonium nitrate, a chemical that was supposed to rapidly inflate the airbag in a crash.
Instead, after years of exposure to heat and humidity, the chemical can become extremely volatile and explode so forcefully that it breaks apart a metal canister, spewing deadly shrapnel inside the vehicle.
BMW dealerships are offering to repair the airbags for free, including covering the cost to tow the vehicle, or make a mobile service repair.
For more information, or to look up your VIN number, visit https://www.bmwusa.com/safety-and-emission-recalls/takata-airbag.html.