Takata airbag inflator recalls grows by 12M vehicles

Eight auto manufacturers Friday expanded the ongoing, record Takata airbag inflator recall by 12 million vehicles. A Dallas, Tex., car dealer marks vehicles that need repairs “do not sell.”.

Led by Honda and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), eight automakers Friday added more than 12 million U.S. vehicles to the Takata airbag inflator recall, making the largest-ever car safety callback even bigger. Honda recalled 4.5 million vehicles while FCA called back 4.3 million. The recall is focused on front passenger-side airbags. Prior recalls were for driver-side inflators. At least 2.3 million of the vehicles recalled were called back in previous programs.

Before Friday’s recall announcement, some 24 million vehicles, equipped with 28.8 million faulty inflators, had been recalled by 14 automakers. Because Takata was Honda’s sole supplier, the automaker was the manufacturer most dramatically impacted by the bad inflators.

And, in Japan, the Transport Ministry Friday said automakers will recall an additional 7 million cars equipped with Takata airbag inflators by March 2019. The inflators were made without the drying agent that keeps the airbag propellant from deterioriating, the cause of deadly deployments. With the added 7 million vehicles, the total number of vehicles recalled will be 19.6 million in Japan.

Friday’s announcement by Honda and FCA followed an action earlier this week by Toyota where 1.65 million vehicles were recalled. And, Subaru indicated it has recalled 400,000 U.S. vehicles. Both automakers indicated that some of the vehicles included in their recalls were discontinued General Motors products. Each had built products for the now-closed Saab and Pontiac GM divisions.

Also, Mazda Motors issued a recall for 730,000 vehicles, while Nissan has called back 400,000 U.S. vehicles. And, Mitsubishi Motors has recalled 38,000 2006-07 Lancer vehicles, while Ferrari has called back 2,800 U.S. models.

Also, FCA indicated Friday that it is recalling 933,000 vehicles sold in Canada, Mexico and outside North America. The automaker also indicated that 660,000 U.S. vehicles were set for the second phase of the Takata expansion.

Friday’s recall largely includes the 14 million airbag inflators that Takata recently declared faulty as part of the first phase of a program recently announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the agreement, the airbag manufacturer and NHTSA agreed that 40 million devices would be declared faulty in five phases beginning now and ending in 2019. Vehicles made by 17 automakers are involved. There are more recall announcements expected in the next few days.

Friday’s recalls are part of the most massive safety-related callbacks in the history of auto safety. To date, more than 50 million vehicles, equipped with faulty Takata airbag inflators have been recalled by manufacturers. At least 13 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide have been linked to the faulty inflators.

The inflators use a propellant based on ammonium nitrate. Investigators have found that, in some cases, inflators are not entirely sealed against moisture intrusion. The moisture causes the propellant to deteriorate which, in turn, increases the explosive force of the blast used to inflate the airbags. In turn, the airbag inflator housing can burst and hurl shrapnel throughout the interior of the vehicle, causing the deaths and injuries. The airbag inflators have been installed in pickups, SUVs and cars built between 2001 and 2015.

Takata and carmakers said Friday there have been no reports of ruptures among the millions of vehicles involved in the latest recall.

Meantime, Takata, already facing severe financial strain as a result of earlier recalls, could be facing more trouble and financial pain. If the airbag maker is found responsible for potentially defective inflators in the latest recall, it is likely that its finances are going to be squeezed more tightly. It is possible that Takata may not have used a drying agent, which could prohibit or lessen the impact of ammonium nitrate deterioration, and therefore may be facing further issues.

The ministry said the latest recall is mainly for passenger-side front airbags. It will be conducted in phases. There was no further comment about the manufacturers involved.

And, in a separate development Thursday, the embattled airbag manufacturer has been involved in intense talks with potential investors over a bailout, including the private equity firm KKR & Co.

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