Honda, Daihatsu add 5.2 million vehicles to airbag recall; total now 36 million

Takata officials testify before a Congressional panel last fall as the panel probed an ongoing airbag recall. Six have been killed and scores injured so far. Takata was the manufacturer. Yesterday, another 6.1 million vehicles were added to the recall.

Quiet for the last couple of weeks, the Takata airbag recall expanded again yesterday as Honda and Daihatsu, Toyota’s mini-car subsidiary, announced additions to the number of vehicles recalled. Honda added 4.89 million vehicles while Daihatsu recalled 260,000 vehicles. Wednesday, Toyota and Nissan recalled a total of 6.5 million vehicles. The total number of vehicles recalled this week was more than 11.6 million. The overall number of vehicles recalled over Takata-made airbag inflators stands now at 36 million.

According to Automotive News, yesterday’s recall was the second time this week that the airbag recall jumped by millions of vehicles. The additional vehicles yesterday made the recall the largest ever for a single issue. The former largest single recall was in the 1970s when Ford Motor Co. recalled 21 million vehicles. The largest total recall was for more than 40 million cars. General Motors set that mark last year as it recalled millions of vehicles for a variety of problems.

Yesterday’s action by Honda and Daihatsu occurred in Japan. The recall covered vehicles built for Japan and Europe and not for the U.S. market. The automakers said they have not received any reports of deaths or injuries related to the recalled vehicles. In the U.S., however, bursting airbag inflators have been linked to the deaths of six and scores of injuries. Honda has been particularly hard-hit by this recall as Takata had been, until recently, its primary airbag supplier.

The affected vehicles were recalled as the result of an independent study conducted by Takata. The study was one of the several ongoing probes into the exact cause of the problem. According to the Takata study, released in March, the problem occurs as moisture gets into the ammonium nitrate airbag propellant. It causes the propellant to destabilize, increasing the risk of rupture, according to Honda. Honda had launched an independent probe while a consortium of 10 automakers, led by Toyota, was also seeking the cause. The rupture occurs on deployment because the pressure within the inflator is increased, causing the inflator to break. The shattered inflator then becomes shrapnel that rips through the passenger compartment. So far, six deaths and scores of injuries have been attributed to this failure. Honda plans to replace the affected inflators with devices made by Takata competitors Daicel and Autoliv.

This week’s actions by Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Daihatsu are the latest in a continuing series of occurrences in this long-running recall. Now more than seven years old, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the New York Times said yesterday, is thoroughly frustrated with its pace. The safety agency, last month, said it hoped to speed up the pace of the airbag recall. Indeed, NHTSA slapped Takata with a $14,000-a-day fine in hopes of getting speedier results from the airbag manufacturer. The fine remains in place.

Meantime, other manufacturers have indicated they are looking at the airbag issue with a view toward further recalls. The latest, Mazda, told Automotive News that it is considering a recall similar to the once announced by Honda. A spokesman for the automaker could not comment on whether it officially plans to recall vehicles before it official notifies transportation officials.

In other recall news, Fiat-Chrysler Automotive (FCA) also announced yesterday that it would be adding 62,000 Jeep Cherokees to its original February action. At that time, the automaker recalled 228,000 Jeep Cherokees due to another type of airbag failure. In this particular recall, airbags deployed without warning during extreme maneuvering. Extreme maneuvers included heavy-duty off-roading or taking very sharp turns. In either case, the Jeeps can tip one way or another, apparently causing the deployment. It was indicated the FCA models involved were built in 2014 to 2015. There have been no reports of deaths or injuries relating to this issue.

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