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More vehicles recalled for problematic Takata air bag inflators

Published:Thursday | May 14, 2015 | 5:00 AM

Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Company are expanding their recalls over problem airbags made by Japanese supplier Takata Corp by another 6.5 million vehicles.

Toyota said Wednesday it was recalling nearly five million more vehicles globally for the airbag inflator problem. Some 637,000 of the vehicles are in the United States. In Japan, it is recalling nearly 1.4 million vehicles.

The recall affects 35 models globally, including the Corolla subcompact, RAV4 sport utility vehicle and Tundra pickup, produced from March 2003 through November 2007.

In the latest recall, front passenger and front driver-side airbag inflators can deploy abnormally, or rupture, and put a person in a crash at greater risk.

This is different from an earlier problem with Takata airbag inflators that deployed with too much force, which has affected a range of automakers including Honda Motor Company, Chrysler, BMW and Ford Motor Company. At least six people have died worldwide due to that defect.

When combined with the earlier recalls, Toyota's Takata-related recalls have ballooned to 8.1 million vehicles.

Tokyo-based Honda, which has recalled the most vehicles because of Takata airbag problems, said it was studying the new problem and has not made a decision yet about expanding its recalls.

Nissan recalled an additional 1.56 million vehicles globally for the new Takata problem, with 326,000 of them in North America, 563,000 in Europe and 288,000 in Japan.

Nissan's Takata-related recalls have now grown to about four million around the world.

The latest affects the Sentra compact, Caravan van and X-Trail sport utility vehicle, made from 2004 through 2007, Nissan said. The automaker said it will test the inflators and replace them as needed.

Toyota said it will replace the problem inflators on the driver side with inflators made by Daicel Corp, another Japanese supplier.

Toyota will continue to use Takata "since we have not, at this point, identified parts from a different supplier that are compatible", the company said in a statement.

Takata has not been able to keep up with demand for replacement inflators.

NHTSA, the government authority in the United States, which oversees recall, as well as Takata and the auto industry, have been trying to pinpoint what's causing the inflator problems.

"Toyota's focus remains on the safety and security of our customers," said Dino Triantafyllos, chief quality officer at Toyota Motor North America.

Takata has been fined US$14,000 per day by NHTSA since February 20 for allegedly dumping documents on the agency without the legally required explanation of what's in them. The fines have reached about US$1 million.

Takata has denied it is not cooperating fully with the investigation.

Even before the latest recalls, 10 automakers recalled more than 17 million cars and trucks in the United States and 22 million worldwide because of the Takata airbag problem. There could be as many as 30 million vehicles with Takata airbags in the United States alone.

The Takata airbag problems began surfacing about a decade ago. Takata uses a different kind of inflator propellant from rivals, ammonium nitrate, which can burn too fast if subjected to prolonged exposure to airborne moisture.

- AP