* Recall affects vehicles in N. America, Japan, Europe
* Supplier learned of issue in October 2011
* Biggest-ever recall for world No. 2 airbag, seatbelt maker
* Carmakers increasingly using common or similar parts to
* Takata shares fall nearly 10 pct
By Yoko Kubota and Ben Klayman
TOKYO/DETROIT, April 11 Four Japanese
automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan
Motor Co, are recalling 3.4 million vehicles sold
around the world because airbags supplied by Takata Corp
are at risk of catching fire or injuring passengers.
The move announced on Thursday is the largest recall ever
for airbags made by Takata, the world's second-largest supplier
of airbags and seatbelts. Shares of Takata, which first learned
of the issue in October 2011, tumbled almost 10 percent in Tokyo
The recall, also including vehicles from Honda Motor Co Ltd
and Mazda Motor Corp, is the largest since
Toyota pulled back more than 7 million vehicles in October to
repair faulty power window switches. The scale of the recent
safety actions underscores the risk of huge global supply chain
problems as automakers increasingly rely on a handful of
suppliers for common or similar parts to cut costs, analysts
Toyota, Honda and Nissan said there were no reports of
injuries or deaths because of the defective airbags, which
affect more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States.
Airbags are flexible fabric envelopes that inflate rapidly
to cushion occupants in an accident. They were rolled out
broadly in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, and are now required
in most developed countries, with many vehicles offering
However, U.S. requirements were changed in the late 1990s to
lower the explosive force of airbag deployment after injuries
caused by early generations of the technology.
In the current Takata recall, the airbag for the front
passenger seat may not inflate correctly because of a
manufacturing defect in the propellant used in the airbag
inflator, the companies said. As a result, there is a risk of
fires starting or of passengers being injured by metal fragments
shooting up toward the windshield or down into the passenger
The recall covers some of the top-selling Japanese cars,
including Toyota's Camry and Corolla, and rivals like the Nissan
Maxima and Honda Civic. All of the vehicles in question were
manufactured in or after 2000. None of the affected Camrys were
sold in the United States.
The recall is not welcome news for Toyota, which took a hit
to its reputation after it recalled nearly 19 million vehicles
globally from late 2009 to early 2011 due to unintended
"The huge recall is expected to generate a good deal of
unwelcome attention, particularly for Toyota, as it strives to
rebuild its reputation for quality in North America," IHS
Automotive analyst Paul Newton said in a report.
Takata said it learned of the problem from an automaker it
did not identify in October 2011 after an airbag deployment in
Japan. It learned of a Honda accident in Puerto Rico the
following month, according to documents filed with U.S. safety
From February 2012 through June last year, Takata could not
reproduce the problem in testing, but that autumn the supplier
was alerted to three additional incidents - two in Puerto Rico
and one in Maryland - according to documents filed with the U.S.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
By October 2012, Takata concluded it was possible that the
propellant in certain wafers made at its plant in Moses Lake,
Washington, might be inadequately compressed, which could lead
to the rupture, according to NHTSA documents.
By March this year, it also discovered that some wafers used
in inflators made at a plant in Monclova, Mexico, for a year
ending in late October 2002 may have been exposed to excess
moisture, which could lead to a rupture, according to the NHTSA
Takata is aware of only six cases where an inflator ruptured
in vehicles in the field - four in the United States and two in
Japan - as well as six cases in salvage yards in Japan,
according to NHTSA documents.
In July and August 2012 in Japan, at scrap yards where
airbags were being recycled, officials noted that airbags in
some Honda vehicles deployed "strangely," adding to the probe, a
U.S. spokesman for Honda said.
Industry officials said the elapsed time between the first
report of a problem and the announcement of the recall was not
unusual because companies typically search for patterns and
possible causes of problems before launching a recall.
Toyota said in NHTSA documents that it also received a
report in October 2011 about an accident in Japan related to the
issue. The automaker then asked Takata to investigate, but
through August 2011 no abnormalities were found with 66
In September 2012, Toyota said it received reports of three
vehicles in the U.S. market with fractured inflators, and the
automaker asked Takata to study 144 parts that were recovered.
In February 2013, Takata said the inflators were cracked,
possibly because of lower material density increasing pressure
on the part, so Toyota asked the supplier to determine if a
trend was developing, according to NHTSA documents. On April 5,
Toyota decided to conduct its recall, three days after Takata
said certain inflators could be faulty.
Tokyo-based Takata said it supplies airbags and seatbelts to
major automakers including Daimler AG and Ford Motor
Co as well as the Japanese brands.
Some non-Japanese automakers were also supplied with the
faulty airbags, Takata spokesman Toyohiro Hishikawa said. He
declined to name those automakers.
General Motors Co said Takata is a supplier, but that
the problem affected only about 55,000 Pontiac Vibe cars from
model year 2003 built for the U.S. and Canadian markets. The
cars were assembled at the Fremont, California, plant GM
previously ran in a joint venture with Toyota and were included
in Toyota's total recall number, a GM spokesman said. GM dealers
will service its cars.
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 SA and Volkswagen AG
said they were not affected because they did not use the airbags
covered by the recall. India's Tata Motors Ltd and its
Jaguar Land Rover unit said they are not affected.
A Takata spokesman in the United States said no other
customers were affected. Italy's Fiat SpA and India's
Maruti Suzuki said Takata is not a supplier.
Between 2008 and 2011, Honda was forced to recall about 2.8
million vehicles after finding a defect with driver-side airbags
supplied by Takata.
"When the last recall took place, we inspected everything
such as the site of manufacturing, but we were not able to
identify this problem," said Hideyuki Matsumoto, another
spokesman for Takata.
The present recall, announced during Japanese trading hours,
hit Takata's shares harder than stock prices of automakers, who
typically carry reserves for recalls and warranty costs.
It is the largest recall for Takata since 1995 when the
company was involved in a recall of more than 8 million vehicles
because of defective seatbelts.
Shares in Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda, which continue to
be supported by a weakening yen, were up between 3.1 and 5.8
percent, outpacing a 2 percent rise in the benchmark Nikkei