Six automakers are hit with recall over air bags

Problem air bags can send shrapnel flying through the vehicles

DETROIT — Six automakers, including Toyota, Honda and Nissan, are recalling nearly 3.4 million older-model vehicles worldwide because of defective air bags that can send shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment.

The recall mainly affects cars sold by Japanese automakers in North America, Europe and Japan. A small number of cars made by Germany's BMW AG, General Motors Co. and Mazda also are involved.

The front passenger air bags all were made by the same parts supplier, Japan's Takata Corp. They have faulty inflator mechanisms that don't route gas into the air bags. Instead, the high-pressure gas can launch plastic and metal parts from the air bags into the cars' passenger areas. Takata says no one has been hurt, but there have been six incidents of the air bags deploying improperly on roadways.

The recall, announced Thursday in Japan, is so large because many automakers use common parts on multiple models to cut costs and simplify manufacturing. This approach was pioneered by Japanese automakers.

The recall will bring a great deal of unwelcome publicity for automakers, especially Toyota Motor Corp., said IHS Automotive analyst Paul Newton. The world's top-selling car company is trying to rebuild a reputation for quality that was hurt by previous big recalls.

The latest recall is the fourth for Toyota since October that involves more than 1 million vehicles, Newton wrote in an email.

Toyota will have to inspect or fix 1.7 million vehicles worldwide, including about 580,000 in North America, 490,000 in Europe and 320,000 in Japan. The models include the Corolla compact, Matrix hatchback, Sequoia SUV, and Tundra pickup, as well as the Lexus SC 430 sports car. All the vehicles were manufactured from 2001 to 2003.

But the latest recall affects other major automakers, including Toyota's chief Japanese competitor. Honda Motor Co. is recalling 1.1 million vehicles worldwide, including about 680,000 in North America. Models include the Civic compact, CR-V small SUV and Odyssey minivan from the 2001 to 2003 model years.

Also, Nissan Motor Co. is recalling 480,000 vehicles worldwide, including about 265,000 in the U.S. Models include the Nissan Maxima midsize sedan, Pathfinder SUV and Sentra compact, as well as the Infiniti FX crossover and QX4 SUV, all from the 2001-2003 model years. Recalled models in Japan include the Cube, X-Trail, Maxima and Teana.

About 45,000 Mazda RX-8 and Mazda 6 cars are affected, including 4,000 in Japan. The company said recalls will be announced in North America, Europe, China and elsewhere.

At GM, 55,000 Pontiac Vibe hatchbacks sold in the U.S. and Canada are being recalled.


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