Auto officials have announced one of the largest and most complicated vehicle safety recalls in auto history.
Japanese supplier Takata had already agreed to a massive recall involving 18 million vehicles across the U.S., but the company has now almost doubled that number, bringing it to 34 million vehicles. Regulators do not yet know which makers and models will be involved in the recall.
"It's a huge, huge recall, and it's really a relief to know that this has now been resolved," said former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief Joan Claybrook. "This is such a dangerous system that I don't think anyone is going to hesitate to bring their car in to get it fixed."
The recall is expected to take years to complete, but the NHTSA has said that it is working quickly to find out which cars will be affected.
The recall itself is due to faulty airbags, which are reported to explode randomly, sending shrapnel into the face and body of the driver. Police officers who have witnessed accidents involving the cars report that victims look like they have been shot or stabbed. There have already been a number of deaths and injuries related to the issue.
"We are committed to continuing to work closely with N.H.T.S.A. and our automaker customers to do everything we can to advance the safety of drivers," said Takata chairman and chief executive Shigehisa Takada.
To put the 34 million vehicles involved into perspective, that number represents around one in every seven cars on the road in the U.S. today. Most of the reported incidents involve cars from Honda, but other manufacturers will also be involved. The exact number of cars affected will not be known for a few more days, after the NHTSA has coordinated with all concerned manufacturers.
It is not yet known exactly what causes the airbags to explode, but Takata has insisted that the problem is predominantly limited to cars in more humid conditions.
The previous largest recall was conducted by Ford, which recalled a massive 21 million cars in 1980 due to a transmission problem that caused the cars to shift out of park.
Regulators expect that recalls of this nature and scale will happen increasingly frequently as the auto industry globalizes, causing different automakers from different regions to use many of the same parts. The recall will cost the auto industry billions, but it will not be known exactly how much it costs until the recall has been completed.