Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Japanese automakers recall millions

FIRE HAZARD:Honda has recalled more than 2 million cars due to faulty propellents in airbags that could explode on impact, in an issue which has also affected Mazda and Nissan

AFP and Reuters, TOKYO and DETROIT, Michigan

A video on airbag safety is shown on a screen at Toyota Motor Corp’s showroom in Tokyo, Japan, on April 11 last year.

Photo: Bloomberg

Japanese automakers yesterday recalled nearly 3 million vehicles worldwide over an airbag defect that could pose a fire risk.

Honda Motor Co said it recalled about 2,033,000 vehicles which were produced between August 2000 and December 2005, including more than 1 million in North America and 668,000 in Japan.

Two other automakers — Mazda Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co — also recalled hundreds of thousands of vehicles over the same problem, which was also responsible for earlier recalls by Toyota Motor Corp.

Japan’s Takata Corp, which made the airbag, noted its US subsidiary had manufactured the airbag, apologizing for the problem and vowing to make its utmost efforts to prevent a recurrence.

“We apologize deeply for causing tremendous trouble and worries to client companies, users of our products and other people concerned,” the company said in a statement.

Nissan recalled a combined 755,000 vehicles, including 128,000 in Japan and 627,000 overseas.

“In North America, 228,000 are on the recall list, with 7,000 in China,” a Nissan spokesman said.

A Mazda spokeswoman said: “The recall will cover 11,832 vehicles at home and 147,975 units overseas, mainly in Europe and China.”

Subject to Honda’s recall are a total of 13 types of vehicles in Japan, including popular Fit and Accord models.

Front passenger airbag inflators could have been assembled with an improperly manufactured propellant component, Japan’s third- largest automaker said.

That could cause the container of the inflator to rupture in the event of a crash, posing a fire risk or injuring passengers, it added.

The same problem has also caused top automaker Toyota to recall millions of vehicles globally.

Toyota had earlier said it acted as it received a complaint from a Japanese customer who said his passenger seat was burned from the defect.

Honda said the company had received no complaint or reports of injuries on its own.

Yet more vehicles could be recalled if an ongoing US safety investigation finds evidence of wider problems.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is examining whether Takata inflators made after 2002 are prone to fail and if driving in high humidity contributes to the risk for air bag explosions.

That would go beyond the manufacturing glitches that Takata and Honda previously identified.

Takata told the NHTSA in a letter, dated on June 11 and posted recently on the NHTSA’s Web site, that it will support replacements of certain driver-side air bag inflators made between Jan. 1, 2004 and June 30, 2007, as well as certain passenger side inflators made between June 2000 and July 2004.

The company said it would support “regional campaigns” for these inflators, but it was not immediately clear what that meant.

However, Takata did not admit that there were safety defects to these inflators, saying currently available information does not indicate that.

“Neither Takata nor the vehicle manufacturers conducting these field actions would be expected to admit that its product contains such a defect,” the company said in the letter.

Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies and a researcher and consultant for plaintiffs’ lawyers, said it was clear past Takata recalls, which began in 2008, had fallen short.

“What’s very troubling is that they haven’t resolved this thing once and for all,” he said.

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