UPDATE 5-Japan's 3 top carmakers to expand Takata air bag recalls by millions

Wed May 13, 2015 1:46pm EDT
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(Adds detail from Honda in paragraph 2)

By Chang-Ran Kim and Mari Saito

TOKYO May 13 (Reuters) - Japan's three biggest carmakers are expanding a huge global recall triggered by potentially fatal air bags made by Takata Corp, saying on Wednesday they will take back millions of vehicles worldwide for investigation.

Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co said they are recalling some 6.5 million vehicles globally, while Honda Motor Co Ltd said it would follow suit, without giving details. A U.S. Honda spokesman added, however, that any potential action would not affect cars that were sold in the United States.

Wednesday's announcements raise to roughly 31 million the number of vehicles recalled worldwide since 2008 over Takata air bag inflators, which can erupt with too much force, spraying shrapnel inside the car.

The Takata-linked recalls top the largest U.S. recall of 21 million vehicles by Ford Motor Co in the 1980s for a parking gear problem, according to U.S. safety regulators and safety advocates. General Motors recalled about 30 million vehicles last year, but those were for a range of defects, including faulty ignition switches.

U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said Toyota and Nissan as well as Japanese government officials have been in contact with the U.S. safety agency over the last few days, and NHTSA will soon announce "significant new steps" related to accelerating Takata recalls.

"While precise root cause remains undetermined, the clear association with high humidity has suggested that moisture and time are factors in this defect," Trowbridge said.

Asked about the latest recalls, a Takata spokeswoman said a probe into the causes for the air bag defects was ongoing and that the company continued to cooperate with the automakers.   Continued...