TOKYO -- A massive vehicle recall by four Japanese automakers because of faulty airbags underscores the perils of huge global supply chains as companies increasingly rely on a handful of suppliers for common or similar parts.
Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mazda are recalling about 3.4 million vehicles worldwide because of airbags supplied by Takata Corp. that are at risk of catching fire or injuring passengers.
Toyota is recalling about 1.73 million vehicles produced between November 2000 and March 2004, including 580,000 vehicles in North America and 490,000 vehicles in Europe. Honda is recalling about 1.14 million vehicles, while Nissan said it may call back 480,000 vehicles. Mazda said it is recalling 45,463 units.
It is the largest recall for airbags made by Takata, the world's second-largest supplier of airbags and seat belts, Reuters reported.
Increasingly, groups of carmakers rely on single-source global suppliers for key components. And there are hazards.
"It's a huge problem for the industry," said George Magliano, senior auto analyst with IHS Automotive. "The issue today is we can't change the way we do business, because otherwise we just can't operate profitably."
Still, he said, "We can't allow failure in the supply chain."
Some airbags at the front passenger seat may not inflate correctly because of a problem with the propellant used in the airbag inflator, Toyota spokesman Ryo Sakai said. Toyota spokeswoman Shino Yamada said that five incidents of malfunctions have been reported, though there were no accidents or injuries.
In the United States, vehicles involved include certain Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia and Tundra, and Lexus SC 430 models made from 2001-03, according to a statement from Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. in California.
General Motors said Takata is a supplier, but that the problem affected only about 55,000 2003 Pontiac Vibes assembled at the Fremont, Calif., plant GM previously ran in a joint venture with Toyota. Those vehicles were included in Toyota's total recall number, a GM spokesman said.
Some non-Japanese automakers were also supplied with the faulty airbags, a Takata spokesman in Japan said. He declined to name those automakers.
BMW has an undetermined number of vehicles affected by the recall, a U.S. spokesman for Takata said. Officials with Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Renault and Volkswagen said they were unaffected because they did not use the airbags covered by the recall.
The Takata U.S. spokesman said no other customers were affected.
-- Reuters, Vince Bond Jr.