New air bag death prompts 'Do Not Drive' warning for 2003 Dodge Ram pickups

The Dodge Ram pickup truck is displayed during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Chrysler-parent Stellantis has warned 29,000 owners of 2003 Dodge Ram pickups to immediately stop driving pending repairs after one person was killed when a Takata air-bag inflator exploded.

The fatality in May is the first reported involving a Takata passenger-side bag, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a statement. The "Do Not Drive" warning applies to 29,000 2003 Dodge Ram pickups believed on the road, the automaker said.

In November, Stellantis urged owners of 276,000 other older U.S. vehicles to immediately stop driving after three other crash deaths tied to faulty Takata air bag inflators were reported in 2022.

Over the last decade, more than 67 million Takata air bag inflators have been recalled in the United States and more than 100 million worldwide, in the biggest auto safety callback in history.

More than 30 deaths worldwide, including 26 U.S. deaths, and hundreds of injuries in various automakers' vehicles since 2009 are linked to Takata air bag inflators that can explode, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday confirmed the Takata fatality, which was the first in a 2003 Dodge Ram 1500, which was one of 385,686 recalled in 2015.

Roughly 84,000 of these pickup trucks are unrepaired "and occupants of these unrepaired vehicles are at grave risk of serious injury or death," NHTSA said.

Stellantis said its best estimate was that 29,000 of those 2003 trucks were still on the road.

"If you have one of these vehicles, DO NOT DRIVE it until the recall is completed and your defective air bag is replaced," NHTSA said.

Stellantis said Tuesday there are still an estimated 233,000 2005-2010 Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum, Challenger and Charger vehicles from the prior stop driver orders are still unrepaired.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Conor Humphries)