By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO (Reuters) – Honda Motor Co and other Japanese automakers on Monday recalled more cars with potentially explosive air bags supplied by Takata Corp, bringing the total recall so far to around 10.5 million vehicles over the past five years.
The series of recalls cover both passenger-side and driver-side air bags, which the world’s second-biggest automotive safety parts maker manufactured in 2000-02. The total ranks it among the five biggest recalls in the industry’s history.
And the total is likely to grow further after Takata said it was willing to support car makers including Honda, Toyota Motor Corp, Chrysler and Ford Motor Co in replacing certain air bag inflators it made in 2000-07 for vehicles in some high humidity regions in the United States.
Honda said it was recalling about 2.03 million vehicles globally over potentially flawed Takata air bag inflators made in 2000-02 with a risk of exploding and shooting out shrapnel at drivers and passengers, expanding a recall from April 2013. It cited how explosive material used to inflate Takata passenger-side air bags had been handled and processed in 2000-02 at plants in the United States and Mexico.
Nissan Motor Co said it would recall 755,000 vehicles worldwide, while Mazda Motor Corp said it would call back 159,807 vehicles.
Takata CEO Shigehisa Takada and Chief Operating Officer Stefan Stocker said the company was working with safety regulators and car makers. “We will aim to further strengthen our quality control system and work united as a company to prevent problems from happening again,” they said in a statement.
A Takata spokeswoman said it was unclear what the financial impact of the recalls would be.
Separately, Takata has asked multiple car makers to cooperate on investigations related to vehicles sold in the United States that carry inflators, some of them made after 2002. Those companies could soon make follow-up announcements, said a person knowledgeable about the matter who declined to be named.
TURNING OFF AIR BAGS
The recalls come as General Motors is under scrutiny over why it took more than a decade to discover a faulty ignition switch linked to at least 13 deaths.
Monday’s announcements in Japan follow Toyota’s recall last week. Prior to Monday, the four Japanese car makers and BMW had recalled 7.6 million vehicles equipped with potentially defective air bags.
Short of Takata replacement parts, the automakers said they would turn off air bags in Japan as customers bring recalled vehicles into dealerships – judging that an inoperable passenger side air bag is safer than a potentially defective one.
Earlier this month, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating whether Takata inflators made after 2002 are prone to fail, and whether driving in high humidity contributes to the risk of air bag explosions.
In a June 11 letter to the NHTSA, Takata said it would support “regional campaigns” to replace certain driver-side air bag inflators made between January 2004 and June 2007, as well as certain passenger-side inflators made between June 2000 and July 2004. Takata said it believes these inflators were supplied to BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota for vehicles sold in the United States.
If the automakers agree, Takata will support the replacement of those inflators in vehicles in high humidity areas of Puerto Rico, Florida, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands, the company said.
But it did not admit that there is any safety defect in the air bags, saying currently available information does not indicate that.
Among previous large-scale global recalls, about 14 million Ford vehicles were affected over a 10-year period to 2009 over a faulty cruise control deactivation switch. From 2009, Toyota recalled more than 9 million vehicles related to unintended acceleration and, in 2012, recalled more than 7.4 million vehicles to fix power window switches.
(Additional reporting by Chang-ran Kim and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Michael Perry and Ian Geoghegan)