Japanese auto supplier Takata has added 5.1 million vehicles to its U.S. airbag-inflator recall, federal regulators said Tuesday. The manufacturer also disclosed the 10th death worldwide linked to its defective airbags, which can inflate with deadly force or explode, even in minor crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Friday that the number of U.S. vehicles affected by Takata’s airbag recall was expected to swell from 19 million to about 24 million because of new discoveries. Globally, about 34 million vehicles have been recalled because of the defective airbags.
One of those discoveries involved the airbag in a 2006 Ford Ranger, which exploded in December and killed a South Carolina driver. The death was the ninth death to occur in the U.S. and the first deadly Takata airbag explosion to occur in a non-Honda vehicle.
Because of the South Carolina incident, Ford Motor Co. announced Tuesday that it would recall 391,394 Ford Rangers from model years 2004 through 2006.
Takata’s airbags were blamed for the death of one driver in Malaysia in 2014. That incident prompted recalls outside the U.S. Takata continues to investigate a fatal airbag rupture that occurred in India in August, but they aren’t certain if the defective device is directly to blame for that death. That incident occurred in a 2007 Honda Civic. If confirmed that it was related to the Takata airbag, that would be the 11th death worldwide connected to the defective product.
While most of the recalled vehicles under the Takata airbag recall are older models, the manufacturer said that newer vehicles remain under “investigation and could be subject to recall at a later date.”
Ford joins several other carmakers with vehicles that have been recalled for faulty Takata airbags. Other manufacturers included in the new Takata recalls are Honda, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Toyota, Daimler, Mercedes-Benz and Sprinter, Mazda, and Saab.
In November, Takata agreed to federal penalties of between $70 million and $200 million for its failure to disclose the airbag defects and recall them for repairs even after learning about the problems in secret tests.
The defect likely stems from the company’s use of ammonium nitrate, a highly volatile chemical compound, as the propellant that inflates the airbag. NHTSA said the recall could expand by tens of millions more units if Takata fails to prove that its use of ammonium nitrate in the airbag inflators isn’t the problem.
Despite the widespread recalls, the majority of U.S. drivers affected by the recalls continue to drive without the recall repair. Less than 30 percent of U.S. vehicle owners affected by Takata’s driver-side airbag recall had completed the repair.
In addition to causing 10 deaths worldwide, Takata airbags have been blamed for at least 98 injuries in the U.S.