WASHINGTON — A major Japanese maker of automotive air bags has agreed to nearly double the scope of its recall, making it one of the largest in U.S. history, the Transportation Department said Tuesday.
In agreeing to a consent order that increases the number of air bags under recall to 33.8 million in the USA, Japan’s Takata acquiesces to a massive recall that it had previously resisted. While not directly acknowledging its products are defective, it issued a statement that indicated it is cooperating with the government.
The action expands regional recalls to make them national, adding about 16 million more vehicles to a tally that had already hit 17 million. Many of the previous recalls focused on mostly Southern states where humidity was thought to have been a factor in the deadly air bag deployments. Now they are nationwide.
“This is the largest recall we know of,” Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at a press conference. It dwarfs the 2.6 million vehicles being brought back by General Motors to replace deadly ignition switches.
The recall will take years to complete and “is an enormously complex situation,” Rosekind said.
Even before the announcement Tuesday, 10 automakers had announced individual recalls around the air bags in the USA.
The air bags are being recalled because their inflators can deploy too aggressively in an accident, spewing plastic or metal shrapnel. Six deaths are blamed on faulty Takata bags — five in the United States and one in Malaysia. All involved Hondas.
The Transportation Department “is taking the proactive steps necessary to ensure that defective inflators are replaced with safe ones as quickly as possible, and that the highest risks are addressed first,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “We will not stop our work until every air bag is replaced.”
The announcement is a major event in the long-running concern over Takata air bags, analysts said.
“A recall of this scope illustrates the potential for massive automaker expense and consumer inconvenience when a common, mass-produced part is defective,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement. “While this is the largest consumer recall in history, it’s likely we’ll see future vehicle recalls of similar, if not larger, size as the automotive industry becomes more globalized.”
Just last week, Toyota and Nissan vastly expanded their global recalls of Takata air bags, adding more than 6.5 million vehicles. Honda, the automaker hit hardest, announced more as well although no new recalls in the USA.
Congress, which has had hearings on Takata air bags, reacted as well.
“Folks shouldn’t have to drive around wondering if their airbag is going to explode in their face or if their car is going to be on another recall list,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement.
News By : USAtoday