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Millions More Airbags Need Recall, Department Of Transportation Says

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says a full national recall is needed for airbag inflators that have been found to sometimes pepper drivers with metal shrapnel.

Takata, the Japanese auto supplier that makes a third of the airbags used by the industry, so far has focused its recall on regions with high heat and humidity — a focus that's too narrow, the Department of Transportation agency said in a statement.

"NHTSA contacted Takata and the vehicle manufacturers this week to call for the national recall of these vehicles after evaluating a recent incident that involved a failure in a driver's side air bag inflator outside an area of high absolute humidity. Based on this new information, unless Takata and the manufacturers quickly agree to this recall, NHTSA will use the full extent of its statutory powers to ensure vehicles that use the same or similar air bag inflator are recalled...."In recent days, Takata has publicly conceded that it changed the chemical mix of its air bag inflator propellant in newly designed inflators. As part of its ongoing investigation, the agency will analyze the information received to determine if the chemical composition of Takata's propellant mix may be a cause and/or contributing factor in the air bag inflator ruptures.... "While NHTSA is not aware of either field incidents or test data suggesting that the problem affecting passenger-side air bags in the areas of persistently high humidity extends beyond those areas, the agency has been pushing the industry to perform testing to ensure that current recalls effectively cover vehicles with air bags that could be potentially affected by this defect."
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BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota all use the inflators that are the target of the recall.

Reuters notes that, facing a criminal investigation, the parts manufacturer has lawyered up:

"Takata Corp said on Tuesday it has hired Andrew Levander, a prominent New York defense lawyer, to oversee legal matters including a criminal probe stemming from a growing scandal about its defective air bags. "More than 17 million cars have been recalled worldwide since 2008 for defects in the Japanese manufacturer's air bag inflators. Five deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to the flaw... "Takata also faces more than 20 class-action lawsuits, congressional scrutiny and a probe from the U.S. auto safety regulator."

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