TOKYO, May 13 – Toyota and rival Nissan on Wednesday announced the recall of about 6.5 million vehicles globally in the latest chapter of an exploding airbag crisis linked to at least five deaths.
The world’s biggest automaker said its recall of five million vehicles affected 35 models globally produced between March 2003 and November 2007, while Nissan said it was calling back 1.56 million vehicles worldwide due to faulty airbags made by embattled supplier Takata.
“This will affect many of our markets, including Japan, Europe and North America,” a Nissan spokesman told AFP, adding that the explosion risk was among a range of problems seen in the defective airbags.
“There might be many factors. (But) we have seen risks that the metal casing for inflators can malfunction.”
Nissan’s recall affects a range of models produced between 2004 and 2008.
Both automakers said there were no reports of deaths or injuries linked to their latest recall.
The announcement comes after about 20 million vehicles produced by major automakers, including General Motors and Honda, were recalled because of the risk that their Takata-made airbags could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially firing deadly shrapnel at the occupants.
At least five deaths have been linked to the defect, with one in the United States initially investigated as a murder due to her grisly injuries.
Toyota said the latest recall affects 1.35 million vehicles sold in Japan, 637,000 sold in the United States and 1.26 million in Europe.
“We have been conducting various ongoing investigations regarding Takata-produced airbag inflators,” the firm said in an email.
“Among the parts collected from the Japanese market, certain types of airbag inflators were found to have a potential for moisture intrusion over time. As a result, they could be susceptible to abnormal deployment in a crash.”
Tokyo-based Takata, one of the world’s biggest air-bag companies, is a key supplier to major automakers with dozens of plants and offices in 20 countries, including the United States, China and Mexico.
The company has said the defect surfaces mainly in humid, hotter regions and resisted US authorities’ call for a national recall of cars with its airbags.
The firm had an open disagreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which accused Takata of not helping with its investigation into the defects.
The airbag crisis has been a particular problem for Honda, which is Takata’s biggest air bag customer and accounts for a bulk of the recalls.
Japan’s number three automaker saw its annual net profit fall in fiscal 2014 due largely to huge recall-related costs.
Facing lawsuits and regulatory probes, Takata recently acknowledged that the crisis has taken a toll on its earnings, but added that it expects to eke out a small profit this year.
Despite the global crisis, Takata’s top executives have largely stayed out of the public eye and remain tightlipped about the situation.