BMW has announced a nationwide recall for more than 140,000 vehicles due to defective airbags that have been linked to five deaths globally. The German automaker follows in the footsteps of four other companies making similar recalls following pressure from US regulators to expand regional recalls that were already in place.
In a statement, BMW says it is replacing the driver-side airbags of about 140,000 BMW 3 series vehicles produced from January 2004 to August 2006. The airbags, which are manufactured by Japanese auto parts and accessories maker Takata Corp., have become the subject of government scrutiny and a worldwide safety crisis that has led to the death of four people in the United States and one pregnant woman and her unborn baby in Malaysia. Nearly 20 million cars have been recalled and several injuries have been reported.
Previously, BMW had recalled approximately 11,700 vehicles with the Takata airbags in areas characterized by high humidity. However, as evidence of injuries and accidents outside the areas, which include Hawaii, Florida and Puerto Rico, surfaced, the National High Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has ordered automakers to expand their recalls nationwide.
Honda, Mazda, Ford and Chrysler, now FCA, have all complied with the NHTSA's request, which was made under increasing pressure from lawmakers questioning the limited scope of the recall amidst evidence that other areas were also affected. Regional recalls remain in place for passenger-side airbags for at least seven car makers, but legislators are also considering compelling them to call for a nationwide recall.
However, Tokyo-based Takata has continued to refuse the NHTSA's request to issue a nationwide recall for its airbags. The company says there is no evidence that points to the necessity of such a wide-ranging recall, even as it continues to test its own airbags. The NHTSA previously said that it is looking into a formal process to compel Takata to announce a nationwide recall, which could include litigation.
Last week, BMW spokesperson David Buchko said the company was "evaluating the situation" to see if a nationwide recall was necessary. The car maker says one of the challenges associated with expanding the recall involves difficulties in identifying the root cause of the problem in most recent cases. Earlier instances of airbag ruptures involve the inflator propellant burning faster when exposed to airborne moisture, causing the airbag's metal canister to explode and spray pieces of sharp, hot metal all over the place.
BMW says none of the incidents have been linked to its vehicles, "but with so many issues at play, our approach is to use an abundance of caution," says Buchko.