Toyota urges owners of old Corolla, Matrix and RAV4 models to park them until airbags are replaced

DETROIT — Toyota and General Motors are telling the owners of about 61,000 older Corolla, RAV4, Matrix/ Pontiac Vibe models to stop driving them because their Takata airbag inflators are at risk of exploding and hurling shrapnel.

The urgent warning Monday covers:

  • Certain Corolla compact cars and Matrix hatchbacks from the 2003 and 2004 model years.
  • RAV4 small SUVs from 2004 and 2005.
  • Also covered are about 11,000 Pontiac Vibes from 2003 and 2004, which are essentially the same as the Matrix and were made at the same California factory.

Most of the vehicles are in the U.S.

“If the airbag 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.

Owners can go to and enter their 17-digit vehicle identification number to see if their cars are affected. If you’re not the original owner of the vehicle, the manufacturer’s recall letter might not reach you, so be sure to do the VIN check.

The recalled RAV4s have Takata driver’s airbags while the Corolla and Matrix models have them on the passenger side. The Corolla and Matrix also are under a separate recall because their airbags can be deployed without a crash, the company said.

Both companies 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.

Takata used volatile ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate airbags in a crash. But the chemical propellant can deteriorate over time when exposed to high temperatures and humidity. It can explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister and spewing shrapnel.

At least 26 people have been killed in the U.S. by Takata inflators since May 2009, and at least 30 have died worldwide including people in Malaysia and Australia. In addition, about 400 people have been injured. The exploding airbags sent Takata of Japan into bankruptcy.

The potential for a dangerous malfunction led to the largest series of auto recalls in U.S. history. About 100 million inflators were recalled worldwide.