WASHINGTON – Millions more vehicles are being recalled to replace defective Takata Corp. air bags as another death was linked to the devices, which have been found to spray metal shrapnel when activated, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said.
Two additional recalls announced Friday cover 5 million air bag inflators in cars made by Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen AG, Honda Motor Co., Daimler AG, Audi AG, Mazda Motor Corp., Saab AB and BMW AG. NHTSA has been coordinating the largest-ever U.S. automotive recall, which previously covered 23 million inflators in 19 million vehicles with Takata air bags.
The agency could not immediately say how many additional vehicles will be recalled because some have multiple inflators and some may have been previously recalled. Owners can check on their vehicles at safercar.gov.
The driver of a 2006 Ford Motor Co. Ranger pickup died in December after the truck swerved off a road in South Carolina and hit an obstruction, the agency said Friday. Agency investigators said the Takata air bag exploded, and the coroner had previously determined the rupture contributed to the death, NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said.
In addition to the 10 fatalities, nine of them in the U.S., about 100 people have been injured by Takata air bags.
“This is a massive safety crisis,” Trowbridge said.
Ford said it has “very limited information” about the latest incident and is working with NHTSA to review the circumstances of the South Carolina death.
“We are saddened to hear about the driver’s death and offer our sincere condolences to the family of the driver,” said Ford spokesman John Cavangany. “We are working with the agency to review the available information, but we have very limited information at this point. If we find an issue with our vehicles, we take prompt action to address customer safety.”
Takata said it is continuing to conduct tests, ramp up replacement kit production, and trying to raise consumer awareness of recalled vehicles.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the driver’s family,” said Robert Rendine, a U.S. spokesman for the Tokyo-based parts supplier. “We are cooperating fully with regulators and our automotive customers and continue to support all actions that advance vehicle safety.”
One of the two recalls NHTSA is ordering — to replace driver’s side air bags with inflators similar to the one involved in the latest fatal crash — involves vehicles made by Ford, Mazda, Audi, VW, Daimler and Saab, the agency said. Approximately 1 million inflators are included in the action.
The inflator had been involved in previous testing without experiencing a rupture, Trowbridge said. The agency is not sure why the pickup’s air bag exploded. The fatality means there’s a higher risk, meaning the agency “believes it’s appropriate to take aggressive action,” he said.
The second recall announced Friday, involving approximately 4 million inflators, involves vehicles made by Volkswagen, BMW, Honda and Mercedes-Benz, NHTSA said. This recall comes after testing on some similar inflators in already-recalled Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles showed additional ruptures.
The agency has said it will take years to complete all of the recalls, and it is prioritizing repairs in areas with high humidity levels, like the states around the Gulf of Mexico and Puerto Rico. Older vehicles and those needing new driver-side air bags are also at higher risk, Trowbridge said.
Meanwhile, sources in Japan said Takata is considering a tie-up with chemical company Daicel Corp. to continue making the air bag inflators.
Takata had considered continuing to make inflators using a different chemical propellant but judged it would be unable to maintain or expand transactions with its clients who are increasingly defecting to competing companies, according to the sources.
The tie-up is also thought likely to enhance the auto parts industry’s supply chain.
As Takata has fallen out of favor with automakers, competing parts makers have been left scrambling to keep up with increased demand.
According to the sources, Takata has suggested that it and Daicel split off their respective inflator businesses to jointly establish a new company.
Daicel, which has been boosting its production of inflators following the Takata recalls, is expected to study the tie-up proposal, the sources said.