Japan may expand air bag recalls; worried about impact on industry

Fri Nov 28, 2014 8:16am EST
 
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By Mari Saito and Maki Shiraki

TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda Motor and Mazda Motor may have to recall another 200,000 cars in Japan to replace Takata Corp air bags if Takata complies with a U.S. order to recall cars across the United States rather than just in humid regions.

Several automakers in the U.S. have issued regional recalls of certain models to investigate what is causing some Takata air bags to explode with excessive force. U.S. safety regulators have ordered Takata to have those recalls expanded nationwide.

Takata has so far resisted a wider U.S. recall, saying that could divert replacement parts away from the high-humidity regions thought to need them most - due to moisture possibly breaking down the air bag inflator's chemical mix. Takata has until Tuesday to respond to the U.S. regulator's order.

Takata and regulators still don't know exactly why some air bags have proved lethal, with the inflators exploding and shooting metal shards at car occupants. At least five deaths have been linked to such incidents - all in Honda cars.

As U.S. investigations progress, an expanded recall can have a knock-on impact in other markets where cars use air bag inflators from the same potentially problematic batches.

An official at Japan's transport ministry said a U.S.-wide recall could add 200,000 Honda and Mazda cars to the 2.6 million cars fitted with Takata air bags already under recall in Japan.

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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