Mazda's North American unit is recalling 260,915 Mazda3 vehicles from the 2004-2007 model years because airbag deployment could cause the plastic emblem on the steering wheel module cover to shatter and send fragments flying.
According to documents filed with NHTSA, the fragments could strike occupants during airbag deployment, which increases the risk of injury.
Mazda estimates it will notify owners by mail Aug. 28. The automaker will have owners take vehicles to a Mazda dealership so the airbag module cover can be replaced with an improved part. Airbags and inflators won't be replaced.
Mazda says owners won't be charged for the service. The automaker also says customers "would not have been able to incur warrantable costs" related to fixing the defect, so it won't offer a reimbursement plan.
According to a safety recall report filed with NHTSA, replacement airbag module covers have logos that don't contain polyurethane, which is subject to deterioration, as the vehicles being recalled do.
The automaker confirmed hydrolysis — the chemical breakdown of a compound due to a reaction with water — could occur in the logos made of polyurethane, causing them to become brittle.
Eight incidents have been reported outside the U.S., and Mazda has been named in two U.S. lawsuits alleging injury.
Mazda notified dealers Wednesday.
The recall is not related to the ongoing global replacement of defective Takata airbag inflators -- the largest recall in global automotive history. In these cases, defective Takata inflators exploded, shooting shrapnel inside a vehicle interior and resulting in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.
In the Mazda recall, the airbag inflators functioned normally but the risk of injury is caused by debris from the plastic emblem, a spokeswoman said in an email.