DETROIT (CBS/AP) — Honda has added 4.5 million vehicles in countries outside the U.S. to the growing list of cars and trucks recalled for Takata air bags that could explode with too much force and spew shrapnel at drivers and passengers.
The recall announced Thursday raises to 57.5 million the total number of Takata air bag inflators recalled worldwide. The figure includes 33.8 million inflators in the U.S. affecting 32 million vehicles from 11 automakers including Honda, BMW and Toyota. At Honda alone, the figure is 24.5 million worldwide.
The staggering numbers mean it will take several years for Takata and other air bag makers to produce enough inflators to finish the recalls, leaving potentially dangerous Takata inflators on the road.
Kelley Blue Book Senior Analyst Karl Brauer estimated that it would take four years or longer to make enough inflators to finish all the global recalls, and said that assumes that no further recalls will be announced.
A recent air bag explosion involving a Nissan passenger air bag in Japan shows that more cars could be recalled, Brauer said. The company is the only one that uses ammonium nitrate as a propellant to inflate the air bags.
“I see more and more indications every day that all of those are going to need to be recalled versus only a portion,” Brauer said. “It’s just how long before (the propellant) goes bad seems to be the pattern that we’re seeing.”
During a U.S. Senate hearing last month, Takata Executive Vice President for North America Kevin Kennedy testified that the company had made more than 5 million replacement inflators and it was producing 700,000 more per month. The company has plans to increase that to 1 million inflators monthly by September, and other manufacturers also are making replacements.
But even with the increased production, the U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in May that it would take more than 2 ½ years to make enough inflators just for the U.S.
Takata believes that prolonged exposure to airborne moisture and high temperatures can make the ammonium nitrate explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister. The company has said that newer versions of its inflators are designed differently from older ones and are safe and stable. But Takata, the auto industry and NHTSA are all investigating to find out exactly what causes the problem.
The latest Honda recall is for the problem announced previously with air bag inflators on the driver’s side. But the manufacturing period was extended to 2007 through 2011, from the previous 2004 through 2006.
Honda declined to give a breakdown of where the 4.5 million vehicles are until regulators in affected nations were notified.
The recall spans 17 models, including the Fit subcompact, Stream minivan and CR-V sport utility vehicle.
“We apologize deeply for the great problems we have caused our customers,” Honda said in a statement that called the recall a precautionary measure.
At least eight people have been killed and 100 injured worldwide by the inflators. The problem has persisted for more than a decade.
In the U.S., the government is seeking to take over management of production and distribution of replacement inflators in an effort to speed the process and prioritize where inflators are sent. Older cars and those in high-humidity areas would get inflators first.
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