Daimler AG, Ferrari selling some new vehicles with faulty air bags: U.S. Senate report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz USA and Daimler Vans units and Ferrari NV are among a small group of automakers selling some new vehicles with faulty Takata airbags that will be subject to recalls by the end of 2018, a U.S. Senate report said on Wednesday.

The Mercedes-Benz logo is seen before the company's annual news conference in Stuttgart, Germany, February 4, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

The vehicles are legal to sell since the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said they will not become potentially unsafe until exposed to high humidity for an extended period. Safety advocates and some in Congress have criticized the sale of vehicles that will be recalled.

Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said the vehicles include the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and 2016-2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe/Convertible and numerous 2016 and 2017 Ferrari models including the FF, California T, 488 GTB/488 Spider, F12/F12tdf and GTC4 Lusso.

Nelson said the report underscores “the failure of certain automakers and regulators to level with people about the true extent of the problem and to have the cars fixed before they’re sold.”

Mercedes Benz USA spokeswoman Donna Boland said the company has told regulators that its “dealers will be informing prospective buyers of the pending recall on these models at the time of purchase in the very near future.”

Ferrari spokeswoman Krista Florin said the Italian automaker also plans to notify customers of the future recalls.Seven out of 17 automakers Nelson contacted have admitted to equipping some new vehicles with defective Takata airbags, including Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV FCHA.MI and Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE. All agreed to notify buyers of the planned recalls.

Tesla Motors Inc TSLA.O is the only automaker that has not provided a written response, Nelson said. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday from Reuters. NHTSA said in May Tesla would be required to recall vehicles for Takata inflators.

Takata inflators can explode with excessive force and spray metal shrapnel. They are suspected in at least 13 deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries.

In May, Takata agreed to declare as defective, by 2018, another 35 million to 40 million U.S. inflators that lack drying agents in frontal airbags after 14 automakers previously recalled more than 24 million U.S. vehicles. Worldwide nearly 100 million inflators have been declared defective.

NHTSA said there have been no ruptures in vehicles built since 2008. According to NHTSA, the vehicles do not become vulnerable to exploding airbags without long-term exposure to high humidity. In the short-term, the agency says, they are safe to drive and much safer than older models.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Meredith Mazzilli