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Japanese Carmakers Recall Millions Of Vehicles Over Faulty Airbags

NPR | April 11, 2013 10:14 a.m.

Contributed By:

Scott Neuman

The 2002 Toyota Corolla. At least some of them are subject to recall.

The 2002 Toyota Corolla. At least some of them are subject to recall.

AFP/Getty Images, Jeff Kowalsky

Some 3.4 million vehicles produced by four Japanese automakers are being voluntarily recalled due to faulty airbag inflators.

The inflators were installed in some of Toyota’s top-selling Camry and Corolla models produced in the years between 2000 and 2004. Certain Honda Civics and Mazdas are also subject to recall, which also reportedly includes some Nissan Maximas and Cubes, according to Reuters.

The defective airbag inflators were produced by Tokyo-based Takata at a Mexican plant, Reuters says.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, says in a statement released on Thursday that “improperly manufactured propellent wafers could cause the inflator to rupture and the front passenger airbag to deploy abnormally in the event of a crash.”

American Honda, in a similar statement, says: “It is possible that the passenger front airbag inflators in affected vehicles may deploy with too much pressure, which may cause the inflator casing to rupture and could result in injury.”

Toyota and Honda have provided some specifics of the vehicles affected:

Toyota says 1.73 million vehicles worldwide (580,000 in North America) will be recalled, including certain Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia, Tundra and Lexus SC 430 models made between 2001 and 2003.

Honda says 1.14 million vehicles worldwide (561,000 in the United States) are subject to recall, including certain 2001-2003 model Civics, 2002-2003 CR-Vs and 2002 Odysseys.

Some non-Japanese automakers were also supplied with the faulty airbags, Takata spokesman Toyohiro Hishikawa was quoted by Reuters as saying. He declined to name those automakers, but The New York Times reports that Takata supplies airbags and seat belts to major automakers outside Japan, including Daimler and Ford Motor, as well as to the Japanese brands.

Bloomberg says that it’s the biggest recall involving Tokyo-based Takata, the world’s second-largest maker of airbags and seatbelts, since 1995, “when several automakers called back almost 9 million vehicles to replace faulty seat belts … a record for the auto industry at the time.”

“It looks like the cost of the recalls may be pretty big,” Satoru Takada, a Tokyo-based analyst at Toward the Infinite World Inc., told Bloomberg. “It doesn’t seem like something that would be easy to identify and fix. But if the cause is clear, it shouldn’t have a lasting effect.”

Kohei Takahashi, an auto industry analyst at J.P. Morgan in Japan, told Reuters: “The inflators themselves are not so expensive, but there is the cost to cover for the hours spent to fix the problem.”

Toyota says owners of vehicles subject to recall will be notified by first-class mail and that if the an air bag inflator is deemed faulty, it will be replaced free of charge.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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