Japanese automakers Honda, Nissan and Mazda have announced the recall of nearly 3 million vehicles worldwide over an ongoing issue about airbags supplied to these companies by Takata Corp., a Japan-based maker of automobile components including airbags. Breakdown by maker stands at 2.03 million for Honda, 755,000 for Nissan and 159,800 for Mazda.
A fourth Japanese automaker, Toyota, has expanded an already in-progress recall on the airbags, adding 766,300 cars and trucks in the United States. Some of these vehicles are being recalled for the second time for the same problem. Toyota points to shoddy bookkeeping practices and poor record-keeping by Takata for the double recalls, and claims that Takata's lists were incomplete and inaccurate. Honda has had to expand its recalls for much the same reason.
The problem, it seems, is that faulty manufacturing of some airbags that were made in 2001-2002 could lead to an explosion that also disburses metal shrapnel from the passenger-side airbag. The production errors are said to involve inadequate pressure and excess moisture during the manufacturing process.
Takata claims that the improperly made airbags sprang from their manufacturing facilities in Monclava, Mexico, and Moses Lake, Wash. Takata has claimed in the past that it may also have sold dangerous airbags to General Motors and BMW.
The company has had recall issues with seat belts that didn't latch in 1995, and some of its executives have been found guilty of corruption and price fixing over the years.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently began investigating over 1.1 million vehicles with Takata airbags. It is alleged that Takata bags may be responsible for six injuries and two deaths, the latter reported by Honda. The NHTSA refers to the problem as "bag rupture." Its investigation will cover driver and passenger airbags in 2002-2006 vehicles. In each case, the airbag ruptured during deployment.
As for Takata, it has released a statement claiming that it is fully cooperating with the NHTSA.
"Takata is committed to the highest standards of safety for our customers -- and their customers. For the past several months, we have been consistently cooperating with NHTSA," said Shigehisa Takada, chairman and CEO.
Takata is looking into the theory that the six incidents that have occurred seem to be connected with high ambient temperatures and high humidity.
"Each of the six incidents occurred in Puerto Rico or Florida. We currently believe that high levels of absolute humidity in those states are important factors. As a result, our engineers are analyzing the impact that humidity may have on the potential for an inflator malfunction, as well as other possible contributing factors," said Takada.