Toyota is expanding an earlier recall of numerous vehicles due to problems with defective airbags, bringing the total number up to more than 247,000 SUVs and pickup trucks in high-humidity areas.
The recall was made because the airbags in the affected vehicles can rupture in high-humidity areas and send shrapnel flying into the driver's face, neck and chest. Toyota says the airbags were manufactured by Takata Corp., a Tokyo-based supplier of airbags, seatbelts and other car components. It is also the same supplier that figured in prominent airbag-related recalls by other car manufacturers.
Vehicles include the Toyota Sequoia, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix and Toyota Tundra from model years 2002 to 2005. Also included in the recall are the Lexus SC and the Pontiac Vibe of General Motors, which were both manufactured in the same line as the Toyota vehicles. The defective units are located in Southern Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa.
Toyota's recall is the latest in a series of regional recalls made by seven car manufacturers due to the faulty airbags from Takata. To date, more than 4.5 million vehicles from Toyota, Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Nissan, Mazda and BMW AG have been recalled in the U.S. over the issue. Toyota accounts for 778,000 of these vehicles. The numbers mount up to more than 12 million vehicles recalled worldwide due to the faulty airbags.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says at least four people have died from severe wounds delivered to their neck by flying shards of metal; all the victims were driving Honda cars. The latest incident claimed the life of a 46-year-old woman in Orlando, Florida, whose airbag on her 2001 Honda Accord caused pieces of metal to cut deep wounds on her neck. She collided with another vehicle after taking a left turn.
At this point, the NHTSA is investigating whether the recalls should be limited to high-humidity areas but says it is "leaving no stone unturned in our aggressive pursuit to track down the full geographic scale of this issue."
Last week, two U.S. senators questioned why the recall was limited to certain areas, citing the 2009 case of an Oklahoma City teenager who was driving her 2001 Honda Accord in a school parking lot when she hit another car and the airbag sent shrapnel flying to her neck, causing her death.
The latest recall comes after testing by Toyota and Takata revealed vehicles in high-humidity areas were prone to the problem.
"We will continue to fully support the NHTSA investigation and our customers' recalls in every way possible moving through this processes, including ongoing detailed technical analysis and replacement parts," says Alby Berman, spokesperson for Takata.
Dealers will replace the faulty airbag for free. If a replacement is not available, dealers will disable the airbag temporarily and discourage customers from letting anyone sit on the passenger seat.