Takata recalls air bag inflators in 5.1 million U.S. vehicles

(Reuters) - U.S. auto safety regulators said Tuesday that air bag maker Takata Corp declared 5.1 million U.S. vehicles defective, as the company disclosed an 11th death could be linked to a faulty airbag.

Visitors walk behind a logo of Takata Corp on its display at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo, Japan, November 6, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Most of the vehicles mentioned in numerous previous recalls involving Takata air bags have been older models, but the new recalls include some 2014 models. The Japanese company said newer vehicles remain under “investigation and could be subject to recall at a later date.”

The newly released documents show that regulators may prod automakers to recall recent models.

That could greatly increase the total number of vehicles recalled, which in the United States now stands at about 24 million involving about 28 million Takata air bag inflators.

Ford Motor Co on Tuesday became the first of several automakers involved to announce a recall. A 2006 Ford Ranger was involved in a Dec. 22 crash that killed the driver when a Takata air bag inflator caused the bag to rupture, sending shrapnel into the vehicle.

A similar airbag inflator was involved in a fatal rupture of a Honda model in Malaysia in 2014, which prompted a worldwide recall by Honda Motor Co.

Takata said in a document released on Tuesday that there was another rupture of a similar inflator in August in India in a 2007 Honda Civic, but it is not clear if the rupture caused the death of the driver. That could be the 11th death worldwide attributed to defective Takata inflators.

Nine deaths related to Takata air bags have occurred in the United States. The death in the Ford Ranger is the first not to involve a car made by Honda.

U.S. regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Friday that the expanded recall was imminent.

The automakers involved in the new Takata inflator recalls include Honda, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG's VOWG_p.DE Volkswagen and Audi brands, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and Sprinter van brands, Mazda Motor Corp, and Saab AB.

Toyota Motor Corp is listed by Takata as part of the new recall, but the company said all of its vehicles involved were recalled in 2015.

NHTSA did not make clear how many, and which automakers were involved with recalls for 2014 models.

The Ford recall announced on Tuesday includes 391,354 2004-2006 Ford Rangers built in North America for driver-side air bags.

The Rangers recalled were previously recalled for potentially defective passenger-side air bag inflators, Ford said.

Honda has previously recalled about 6.28 million vehicles in the United States for air bag inflators, a Honda spokesman said. Honda worldwide has recalled vehicles with 23 million Takata air bag inflators since 2008 - not counting the latest recall.

Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru, Bernie Woodall in Detroit and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Bernard Orr, Jonathan Oatis and Andrew Hay