DETROIT Honda Motor Co, facing a U.S. safety probe, strengthened its recall of U.S. cars to replace potentially defective Takata Corp air bags linked to several deaths.
Japan's third-biggest carmaker said late on Thursday it was adding to its recall an undisclosed number of cars from model years 2001-2006 that were sold or registered in humid areas where the air bag inflators are thought to be most vulnerable to rupture.
Honda said "it is not aware of any claimed injuries or fatalities that have been confirmed" related to the issue. More than 17 million cars by 10 manufacturers have been recalled worldwide over Takata air bags, which can rupture and send metal shards into the passenger compartment.
The action, upgrading Honda's "safety campaign" to a formal recall, comes a day after U.S. safety regulators, for the second time this week, ordered Honda to provide information under oath about its air bags.
Honda's latest move affects some cars from three previous recalls, including nearly 1 million cars in June and 560,000 cars in April 2013. Honda did not provide a precise total. U.S. dealers will replace the passenger-side air bag inflator, the company said.
At least four deaths, all involving Honda cars, and more than a dozen injuries have been linked to the defect.
Honda is Takata's biggest customer, and the two companies have deep historic ties. Both companies say they are cooperating with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in its investigations.
Honda has recalled nearly 7.6 million cars in the United States since 2008 because of the defective inflators and more than 9.5 million cars globally. Total U.S. recalls over air bags are more than 11 million.
Takata ordered its technicians to destroy results of tests on some of its air bags after finding cracks in air bag inflators, the New York Times said on Friday.
Models in Honda's latest recall include the 2003-05 Honda Accord, 2001-05 Civic, 2002-05 CR-V, 2003-04 Element, 2002-04 Odyssey, 2003-05 Pilot, 2006 Ridgeline, 2003-05 Acura MDX and 2005 Acura RL.
Honda said the cars were sold or registered in high-humidity states or territories, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saipan, Guam and American Samoa.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Chris Reese, Dan Grebler, William Mallard and Ian Geoghegan)