Takata Recalled Air Bags May Need New Fix; U.S. Opens Probe

Jun 11, 2014 1:45 pm ET

(Updates with U.S. probe starting in second paragraph.)

June 11 (Bloomberg) -- Takata Corp., the Japanese auto- parts maker whose air bags led to the recall of more than 3 million vehicles last year, told customers including Honda Motor Co. that the defective components may need to be fixed again.

The U.S. Transportation Department immediately opened an investigation, which the agency said will focus on consumer complaints about ruptures in air-bag inflators used in cars by Honda, Toyota Motor Corp., Mazda Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. Takata shares fell 4.1 percent in Tokyo.

Regulators in the U.S. noted that carmakers have conducted an increasing number of recalls in recent years for rupturing air bags. In addition, General Motors Co. faces inquiries by federal prosecutors for its recall of millions of cars with ignition switches that could inadvertently disable the air bags, and Toyota called back vehicles in April to replace spiral cables that may prevent driver-side air bags from deploying.

The Takata-related investigation in the U.S. involves about 1.1 million cars from the 2002 to 2006 model years including the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Mazda6, Toyota Corolla and Chrysler’s Dodge Charger. Worldwide more than 3 million vehicles are affected by the Takata recall.

Takata said it takes the matter seriously and will cooperate with carmakers, a spokeswoman, Kikko Takai said.

Toyota Recall

The Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it’s opening the U.S. investigation “to collect all known facts from the supplier and the vehicle manufacturers that it believes may have manufactured vehicles equipped with inflators produced during the same period.”

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, had recalled more than 2 million vehicles last year for fixes related to the Takata air bags. Today it called back an additional 650,000 vehicles, including Corolla cars, the Toyota City, Japan-based company said in an e-mail.

A total of 2.27 million Toyota vehicles worldwide are affected by the recall because most cars that were called back last year weren’t fixed, spokeswoman Shino Yamada said. The carmaker has received one report of a seat-cover burn related to defective air-bag inflators.

Toyota is the first Japanese carmaker to widen last year’s recall involving Takata’s air bags, with Honda and Nissan saying they’re studying the issue.

Honda has received a notice of potential mistakes with last year’s Takata air bag recall and of accidents involving some models, though none of them are Honda cars, said Akemi Ando, a spokeswoman at Japan’s third-largest carmaker. Honda is studying whether to do a recall, she said.

GM Hearings

Scrutiny of potential safety flaws is on the rise across the auto industry as the U.S. Congress investigates why General Motors took years to formally recall 2.59 million cars for an ignition-switch defect linked to at least 13 deaths. Toyota in March agreed to a record $1.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over its handling of problems with sudden unintended acceleration in vehicles recalled in 2009 and 2010.

U.S. regulators have discussed air-bag failures with Takata, NHTSA said in a notice on its website today. NHTSA said it knows of three incidents that caused injuries.

Takata shares fell 4.1 percent, their steepest decline in almost a month, to close at 2,151 yen in Tokyo trading after Bloomberg reported on the potential air bag flaws. It was the day’s second-worst performer on the Topix 500 index.

--With assistance from Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles and Jeff Plungis in Washington.