• Kyodo, Bloomberg


Honda Motor Co. said Wednesday it will expand a recall campaign across the United States for vehicles equipped with air bags produced by Takata Corp., which is under fire for defects linked to multiple fatalities.

In a U.S. congressional hearing, Takata promised to cooperate with U.S. safety regulators on the issue but stopped short of agreeing to a nationwide recall, citing a lack of post-accident information.

“We want to tell you that Honda will be expanding our campaign to nationwide,” Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America Inc., told a panel under the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The focus is now expected to shift to whether other manufacturers of cars equipped with Takata driver-side air bags will follow Honda and whether Takata will be able to provide enough replacement kits.

In Japan on Thursday, Toyota Motor Corp. widened its Takata-related recalls — marking a departure from its usual practice of starting a safety campaign only after determining a defect.

Toyota will recall about 185,000 autos under 19 brands, including its mainstay Corolla, in Japan, transport ministry official Nobuhito Kiuchi said. The automaker decided to recall the vehicles while it examines an incident that took place in central Japan last month, he said.

The latest Japan recall suggests carmakers are being more proactive about repairing vehicles with the potentially defective air bags.

During the congressional hearing in Washington, Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata’s senior vice president for global quality assurance, said the company will cooperate with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has called for a nationwide recall rather than one limited to humid regions, which Takata said were identified as at greater risk.

But Takata said in a letter to NHTSA that “the current available, reliable information does not support” a recall of all vehicles in the United States.

Shimizu also said Takata will primarily focus on replacing units in U.S. regions with high humidity, where more problems have been reported.

“I was deeply disappointed by Takata’s failure to take responsibility,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman told the hearing at the Subcommittee of Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

Friedman repeated a call for Takata to agree to a national recall, saying the administration could “take them to court.”

Schostek said Honda is already in talks with Autoliv Inc. of Sweden and Daicel Corp. of Japan about procuring components that might be needed in light of future recall campaigns.

Shimizu told the committee that Takata is producing about 350,000 replacement kits per month and will be increasing production to at least 450,000 per month beginning in January.

The world’s second-largest manufacturer of air bags, with around 20 percent of the market, Takata has been under siege for faulty air bag inflators that could rupture and send shrapnel into vehicles’ occupants.

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