Car industry struggles to solve air bag explosions despite mass recalls

Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:04am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Yoko Kubota and Ben Klayman

TOKYO/DETROIT (Reuters) - A year ago, Japan's Takata Corp, the world’s second-largest maker of auto safety parts, believed it had finally contained a crisis more than a decade in the making.

It was wrong.

More than a million Honda Motor Co Ltd vehicles could be subject to an upcoming recall for Takata air bags that are at risk of exploding and shooting shrapnel at passengers and drivers, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

That would be in addition to 7.6 million vehicles already recalled by Honda and other automakers over the past five years.

And the total could grow further still if Honda’s rivals like Nissan, Mazda and BMW also decide to fix more vehicles that were made in a two-year period when, Takata says, it botched production of air bag inflators and lost related records.

The possible additional recalls would come at a time when General Motors is under scrutiny over why it took more than a decade to discover a faulty ignition switch linked to at least 13 deaths. As automakers promote over-the-horizon breakthroughs like self-driving cars, the industry's mass safety-related recalls underline how much can still go wrong with some of the cheapest, most established technologies.

In April and May 2013, Takata’s customers, led by Honda and Toyota Motor Corp, recalled more than 4 million vehicles due to the risk that defective air bag inflators could blow apart and shoot metal shards into vehicles in the event of an accident.

Those 2013 recalls, which ranked as the largest ever for an air bag defect, contributed to a $300 million charge for Takata.   Continued...

A logo of Takata Corp is seen through a car window outside the company's headquarter building in Tokyo April 12, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino