Drivers of vehicles caught up in the massive Takata air bag recall should not disconnect the devices while they're waiting for replacement parts, warned AutoNation Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson on Friday.
The defective air bags from the Japanese supplier, which can explode and release sharp metal objects throughout the vehicle, have been linked to at least 11 deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries.
"There has been a debate whether to disconnect the devices in the meantime. But quite frankly, air bags, even Takata air bags, are saving more lives" than the injuries or deaths they're causing, Jackson told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
"It's a pretty cold-blooded calculation, but it's just the truth," he added.
Jackson's advice is consistent with government recommendations. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that front air bags saved 2,400 lives in 2014 alone.
On Wednesday, as many as 40 million more Takata air bags were added to the already 28.8 million under recall.
Takata's CEO, Shigehisa Takada, said in a statement: "This agreement with NHTSA is consistent with our desire to work with regulators and our automaker customers to develop long-term, orderly solutions to these important safety issues, and we are gratified that the NHTSA Administrator has recognized the company's cooperation."
Dealers are scrambling to get the replacement parts, with nearly 1 in 4 cars in America being affected.
But in many cases, it's going to be a while before the repairs can be made to all those vehicles. So far, only about 8 million of the original 28.8 million air bags on recall have been replaced.
Jackson said he expects the challenge surrounding the Takata recall to be "almost overwhelming for dealers over the next several years." The government estimates it could take until the end of 2019 to finish the recalls.
Until recently, "we've been replacing these air bags with just knowing there was a problem, but without a definitive answer to what's wrong," he said.
But three independent reports concluded the chemical Takata uses to deploy its air bags, ammonium nitrate, can degrade after long-term exposure to environmental moisture and high temperatures.
In the air bags being recalled, Takata didn't use a chemical drying agent that can counteract the effects of moisture.
"The decision of Takata ... the only device maker ... to use ammonium nitrate as the propellant, which has proven to be unstable in humidity, was a fatally flawed decision," Jackson said.
With the first recall of Takata air bags dating back to 2008, Jackson said: "For the industry now to be sitting here having finally determined what's wrong and not have sufficient devices or a plan to get sufficient devices into the repair is not good."
The Takata situation has been "disruptive to the business" of selling vehicles, he added, considering AutoNation's policy of not selling any vehicles with open recalls on them.
The government said the inflators have to be replaced before they reach 6 years old, when the risk of rupture increases.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.