Technology : Japanese carmakers recall 3.4 million vehicles over faulty airbag
Four Japanese automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co, are recalling 3.4 million vehicles sold around the world because airbags supplied by Takata Corp are at risk of catching fire or injuring passengers.
The move announced on Thursday is the largest recall ever for airbags made by Takata, the world’s second-largest supplier of airbags and seatbelts. Shares of Takata tumbled almost 10 percent in Tokyo trading.
The recall, also including vehicles from Honda Motor Co Ltd and Mazda Motor Corp, is the largest since Toyota pulled back more than 7 million vehicles in October. The scale of the recent safety actions underscores the risk of huge global supply chain problems as automakers increasingly rely on a handful of suppliers for common or similar parts to cut costs, analysts have said.
The recall covers some of the top-selling Japanese cars, including Toyota’s Camry and Corolla, and rivals like the Nissan Maxima and Honda Civic. All of the vehicles in question were manufactured in or after 2000.
Takata said it learned of the problem from an automaker it did not identify in October 2011, and that it has since been investigating. Once the cause was determined, the supplier alerted customers, who decided on the recall.
Toyota, Honda and Nissan said there were no reports of injuries or deaths because of the defective airbags.
Honda said it became aware of the issue after a crash in Puerto Rico in October 2011 in which a passenger front airbag deployed with too much pressure and caused the inflator casing to rupture. A U.S. spokesman for the Japanese automaker was not sure whether that accident was the first case to bring the issue to light.
Takata was alerted about the accident and the car was eventually shipped to the United States for study, the Honda spokesman said.
In July and August 2012 in Japan, at scrapyards where airbags were being recycled, officials noted that airbags in some Honda vehicles deployed “strangely,” adding to the probe, the spokesman said.
In an accident, the airbag for the front passenger seat may not inflate correctly because of a manufacturing defect in the propellant used in the airbag inflator, the companies said. As a result, there is a risk of fires starting or of passengers being injured.
Tokyo-based Takata said it supplies airbags and seatbelts to major automakers including Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co as well as the Japanese brands.
Some non-Japanese automakers were also supplied with the faulty airbags, Takata spokesman Toyohiro Hishikawa said. He declined to name those automakers.
General Motors Co said Takata is a supplier, but that the problem affected only about 55,000 Pontiac Vibe cars from model year 2003 built for the U.S. and Canadian markets. The cars were assembled at the Fremont, California, plant GM previously ran in a joint venture with Toyota and were included in Toyota’s total recall number, a GM spokesman said. GM dealers will service its cars.
BMW has an undetermined number of vehicles affected by the recall, a U.S. spokesman for Takata said.
Officials with Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen , Renault SA and Volkswagen AG said they were not affected because they did not use the airbags covered by the recall. India’s Tata Motors Ltd and its Jaguar Land Rover unit said they are not affected.
A Takata spokesman in the United States said no other customers were affected. Italy’s Fiat SpA and India’s Maruti Suzuki said Takata is not a supplier.
Between 2008 and 2011, Honda was forced to recall about 2.8 million vehicles after finding a defect with driver-side airbags supplied by Takata.
“When the last recall took place, we inspected everything such as the site of manufacturing, but we were not able to identify this problem,” said Hideyuki Matsumoto, another spokesman for Takata.
Toyota said it would recall about 1.73 million vehicles produced between November 2000 and March 2004, including 580,000 vehicles sold in North America and 490,000 vehicles sold in Europe.
Honda said it was recalling around 1.14 million vehicles worldwide, including 561,400 vehicles in the United States and another 107,800 in Canada.
Nissan said it was recalling about 480,000 vehicles globally, and more than 265,000 of those were in the United States. It said the number of vehicles under recall could increase. Mazda said it was recalling 45,500 vehicles worldwide.
The faulty airbags were manufactured between 2000 and 2002 in a Takata factory in Mexico. Takata currently has seven plants in Mexico, including three that make airbags, but it had fewer factories when the airbags in the recall were made.
The Toyota models covered by the recall include the Corolla, Tundra, Yaris and Camry. Nissan models include the Maxima and the Cube.
Toyota said it will exchange the faulty airbag inflators for new ones, a fix that is expected to take about an hour to two-and-a-half hours for most models. Company officials declined to give the costs related to the recall.
“The inflators themselves are not so expensive, but there is the cost to cover for the hours spent to fix the problem,” said Kohei Takahashi, an auto industry analyst at J.P. Morgan in Japan.
The recall, announced during Japanese trading hours, hit Takata’s shares harder than it did shares in the automakers, which typically carry reserves for recalls and warranty costs.
It is the largest recall for Takata since 1995 when the company was involved in a recall of more than 8 million vehicles because of defective seatbelts.
Shares in Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda, which continue to be supported by a weakening yen, were up between 3.1 and 5.8 percent, outpacing a 2 percent rise in the benchmark Nikkei