Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata Corp. announced Tuesday it will declare about 34 million vehicles of various brands and models defective due to the potential for the airbags to deploy with excessive force or explode. The recall is both the largest automotive recall ever announced as well as the largest recall of any consumer product.
Takata has already recalled the defective airbags installed in about 17 million vehicles. Tuesday’s announcement, confirmed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will drive the total number of vehicles covered by the recall to 33.8 million, but some officials say that number could still rise.
The problem stems from the ammonium nitrate propellant Takata chose to use in its airbags’ inflator mechanisms. Less expensive and more volatile than the guanidine nitrate propellant used by its rivals, Takata’s ammonium-nitrate formula has been blamed for making the airbags overly sensitive and prone to explode with deadly force, blasting metal shrapnel into the vehicle cabin.
Takata airbags have been linked to six deaths and more than 100 injuries.
The Detroit News reported that Takata is expected to announce Tuesday it has filed four defect information reports with NHTSA, which has been pressuring the company to declare millions of vehicles with its airbags defective. The reports declare airbags defective in millions of vehicles Takata has until now refused to recall.
The Takata defect reports cover nearly all of the 17 million vehicles auto manufacturers have already recalled after Takata refused to take action, meaning that automakers will have to recall an additional 17 million vehicles in the U.S.
BMW AG, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Honda Motor Co., Mazda Motor Co., Mitsubishi, Nissan Motor Co., Subaru Motors USA, and Toyota Motor Corp., have all been affected by Takata’s faulty airbags. Honda especially has been the hardest hit by the Takata problem, and Tuesday’s announcement means that nearly 20 million vehicles have required or will require new airbags on both the driver and passenger side.
Last month, NHTSA stepped up its investigation of 12 million vehicles affected by the Takata airbags. Auto safety regulators began hitting the company with civil penalties of $14,000 per day for every day the company failed to respond to NHTSA’s requests to turn over internal documents investigators need. The company also faces criminal charges brought by the U.S. Justice Department related to its failure to handle safety recalls in compliance with U.S. laws and regulations.