Takata recalls more defective airbag inflators prone to rupture

WASHINGTON -- The manufacturer of airbags linked to four deaths made another 30,687 inflators with an incorrect part that can lead to similarly damaging ruptures in newer vehicles, U.S. regulators said, adding to questions about the scope of the defects in Takata Corp. products.

Takata will recall the SDI-X inflators manufactured from June 16, 2008, to June 20, 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Saturday in a statement on its website.

An incorrect outer baffle could cause the unit to rupture, the agency said.

Owners will be notified by vehicle manufacturers. The defective inflators were used in General Motors and Nissan Motor Corp. models the automakers decided to recall in June and October, respectively, according to documents on the NHTSA website and an e-mail from Alby Berman, a Takata spokeswoman.

GM recalled 29,019 Chevrolet Cruze small cars from model years 2013-14. The new recalls pertain to vehicles newer than those covered by the broader Takata actions, which involve products from the 2000 through 2008 model years.

Safety regulators on Friday said Nissan's Infiniti unit would recall 1,848 SUVs that could propel metal fragments out of its airbags toward occupants. That was an expansion of the previous recalls, Berman said.

The part at fault is different than the one that led to 7.8 million U.S. vehicles being called in for repairs, an effort that was stepped up in recent weeks by federal regulators because of the severity of the defect.

That recall includes vehicles from 10 automakers, including Nissan, Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., and is linked to four fatalities.

U.S. regulators have questioned whether Takata is moving quickly enough to produce replacement parts to repair previously recalled cars.

Parts production

Nissan began investigating flaws with the airbags in June. The Yokohama, Japan-based automaker identified potentially defective inflators in U.S. models in October, it said. The company hasn't identified any injuries that resulted from the flaw.

NHTSA officials met with Takata on Oct. 30, pressing the company to meet consumer needs for replacement parts. Takata representatives told the safety regulator that it planned to add two production lines by the beginning of next year, according to an agency statement on Friday.

"It's unclear yet whether that would be sufficient to meet demand," according to the statement. "We've requested details in writing, so we can hold them to these commitments and evaluate how much further they may need to go."

Weekly meetings

The company agreed to weekly meetings to update regulators on its efforts to speed up production, according to NHTSA. NHTSA is in talks with other air-bag suppliers over whether they can provide replacement parts, according to the statement.

Automakers involved in the recalls are also looking for new suppliers, it said. Takata hasn't contacted additional airbag suppliers because it's concerned about "quality issues," according to the statement, which didn't elaborate.

Takata agreed to quadruple the number of airbags taken from sample cars for testing to help determine whether the full scope of the defect is known. Berman, the Takata spokeswoman, reiterated Saturday that the company is fully cooperating with the agency.

Seeking answers

Takata shares declined 43 percent in Tokyo trading in October to its lowest price in almost two years.

NHTSA on Oct. 30 gave Takata one month to answer 36 questions that may shed light on what led to the airbag recalls. If the agency deems the answers incomplete, Takata faces fines of up to $35 million.

The agency is seeking information on quality control at a factory, the use of contaminated or improperly formulated propellant and a complete accounting of deaths and injuries, according to its legal order.

The Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based consumer group, has asked NHTSA to look at whether Takata airbags repaired in recalls are safe. One of the four fatalities linked to the airbags was the driver of a car in Orlando, Fla., that crashed in September.

That vehicle should have been repaired -- though it's not known whether it was -- under a 2011 recall, using newer parts, the center said. NHTSA should expand its investigation to look at all Takata airbags manufactured through 2011, the center's executive director, Clarence Ditlow, said in an Oct. 30 letter to the agency.

Takata, Autoliv Inc. and TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. are the three leading suppliers of airbag modules, accounting for about three-quarters of global sales combined. Autoliv also makes inflators, as does Tokyo-based Daicel Corp.

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