Takata Airbag Recall More Than Doubles in Size

PHOTO: A worker demonstrates a wheel airbag initiator during a presentation for journalists at Takata Ignition Systems GmbH in Schoenebeck, Germany on April 17, 2014.PlayJens Meyer/AP Photo
WATCH Takata Airbag Recall Will More Than Double in Size

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today announced a major expansion of the Takata airbag recall, more than doubling the number of airbags already deemed potentially unsafe.

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An additional 35 to 40 million driver- and passenger-side airbags are being added to a list of 28.8 million airbags currently under recall, Administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters today.

The bags -- manufactured by Japan-based Takata Corp. and installed in more than a dozen auto brands, including Honda, Nissan, GM, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen -- are prone to rupture, spewing metal shrapnel from the inflator into the cab.

According to one NHTSA official, today's expansion includes cars from three automakers not previously covered by Takata recalls: Tesla, Jaguar Land Rover, and Fisker.

"This issue is urgent," Rosekind said today. "The science now clearly shows that these inflators can become unsafe over time."

NHTSA confirmed last month the 10th U.S. fatality from a ruptured Takata airbag: 17-year-old Human Hanif, who was found with a metal fragment lodged in her neck after her airbag exploded during a minor rear-ender. Hanif's airbag was under recall, Honda confirmed, but in a news conference, her brother asserted the family had never received a recall notice.

"Takata is deeply sorry for all fatalities and injuries that have occurred in any case where a Takata airbag inflator has failed to deploy as intended," the company said in a statement following the incident. "Takata continues to support all actions that advance vehicle safety and is in constant and close coordination with NHTSA to enhance consumer awareness."

According to NHTSA, three factors -- time, moisture, and temperature -- affect an airbag's likelihood of rupturing, and because manufacturers are struggling to compile enough replacement parts to meet demand, NHTSA is prioritizing remedies by geographic region. Those in areas with high absolute humidity, like Florida and Texas, are at the greatest risk.

Because the defect develops over time, cars less than six years old likely aren't at risk, even in those high-humidity regions, an NHTSA official said today. In low-humidity regions, cars much older may also be low-risk.

Nevertheless, "vehicle owners who receive notice that there are parts available for their repair should take action immediately," Rosekind urged.

"Our actions, including the expansion of product recalls to cover all non-desiccated frontal inflator models, demonstrate our total commitment to safety and our intention to be part of the solution and to restore the confidence of the driving public," Takata CEO Shigehisa Takada said in a statement today. "Takata is committed to supporting all actions that advance vehicle safety.”

The Takata recall is the largest in U.S. history, and only 8.1 million of the 28.8 million previously-recalled airbags have been repaired. To check if your car is under recall, go to safercar.gov. VIN numbers of the newly recalled vehicles will be added in the next few weeks.

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