By DEE-ANN DURBIN
DETROIT -- Faulty air bags -- which have already led to the recall of millions of cars worldwide -- are blamed for a new round of recalls in the U.S.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government's auto safety agency, said Monday that BMW, Chrysler, Ford (F), Honda (HMC), Mazda, Nissan and Toyota (TM) will recall cars sold in places where hot, humid weather can potentially affect the air bags.
The older-model cars have air bag inflators that can rupture. If that happens, the air bags might not work properly in a crash, and shards from the broken system could fly out and cause injury.
The automakers all have air bag systems made by Takata Corp., a Tokyo-based supplier of seat belts, air bags, steering wheels and other auto parts.
NHTSA opened an investigation this month after getting six reports of air bags rupturing in Florida and Puerto Rico. Three people were injured in those cases. It had estimated 1.1 million vehicles automakers in the U.S. could be affected, but the total is likely to climb.
Honda, for example, said it will include 10 states and territories in its recall, including Texas, Georgia and South Carolina. Honda says Takata recommended recalling cars in four places: Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The government says it wanted to act quickly in warm states while it continues to investigate the issue.
"Based on the limited data available at this time, NHTSA supports efforts by automakers to address the immediate risk in areas that have consistently hot, humid conditions over extended periods of time," the agency said in a statement.
Honda says too much pressure may be building up in the system, causing the air bags to deploy with too much force.
In one complaint last August, a Honda driver's lawyer told NHTSA that the car was in a crash, and both driver and passenger air bags inflated. The driver's air bag inflator ruptured "and propelled a one-inch piece of shrapnel into the driver's right eye." The driver lost sight and suffered cuts requiring 100 stitches to close, the complaint said.
Takata's air bags have been the subject of multiple recalls in recent months.
In April 2013, Toyota, Honda and Nissan recalled nearly 3.4 million older-model vehicles worldwide due to a problem with the propellant in the air bags that could lead to fires.
But Takata recently realized that recall didn't include all of the potentially faulty air bags. Earlier this month, Toyota recalled 2.27 million more cars globally. And on Monday in Japan, Honda, Mazda and Nissan together recalled nearly 3 million more.
NHTSA said automakers who use airbags made by Takata will repair the vehicles for free, and in most cases replace both the driver's side and passenger side air bag inflators. All of the automakers except Honda are limiting the recalls to Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, on the advice of Takata.
The following automakers and vehicles will be included in the recall, according to letters sent to NHTSA by the various automakers:
BMW: BMW 2001-2005 3 Series sedan, 2001-2006 3 Series coupe, 2001-2005 3 Series sports wagon and 2001-2006 3 Series convertible. BMW says it has not yet determined how many vehicles are affected. It will begin notifying owners in August.
Chrysler: Chrysler is still determining which vehicles are affected.
Ford: Ford expects to recall 58,669 vehicles, including the 2005-2007 Mustang, 2005-2007 GT and 2004 Ranger pickup truck. Ford said it is still working on a schedule to notify owners.
Honda: Honda will recall vehicles in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. The company hasn't yet determined the number of vehicles, but believes it is more than 1 million. Honda will replace the driver's side air bag inflator in the 2001-2007 Accord (four-cylinder engine), 2001-2002 Accord (V6), 2001-2005 Civic, 2002-2006 CR-V, 2003-2011 Element, 2002-2004 Odyssey, 2002-2007 Pilot, 2006 Ridgeline, 2003-2006 Acura MDX and 2002-2003 Acura TL/CL. The company will replace passenger side air bag inflators in the 2003-2005 Accord, Civic, CR-V, Element, Odyssey, Pilot; the 2003-2005 Acura MDX and the 2005 Acura RL.
Mazda: Mazda expects to recall 34,600 vehicles, including the 2003-2007 Mazda6, 2004-2008 RX-8, 2006-2007 Mazdaspeed6 and 2004 MPV. Mazda is still working on a schedule to notify owners.
Nissan: Nissan said it is still determining which vehicles are affected.
Toyota: Toyota has twice recalled vehicles for problems with Takata air bags. The company says it will recall certain 2003-2005 Corolla, Matrix, Sequoia, Tundra, Lexus LC and Pontiac Vibe cars not covered in the previous recalls, to repair their passenger-side air bag inflators. It hasn't yet set a schedule for notifying owners.
Automakers Recall Millions of Cars for Defective Air Bags
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