Toyota said it is re-recalling 766,300 cars and trucks in the U.S. for a potential airbag defect that could result in front seat occupants being struck by shrapnel blasting out of the inflating airbags. The company is also expanding the recall to include 2.3 million vehicles worldwide for the same problem, triggering the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate Tokyo-based supplier Takata, which produced the faulty airbag units.
Toyota originally recalled the affected vehicles in April 2013, mainly for inspection of the airbag assemblies and possible replacement of the inflator. But the carmaker has since learned that Takata provided an incomplete list of the affected units, prompting the automaker to again recall the vehicles, not for inspection but for complete replacement.
“The involved vehicles were equipped with front passenger airbag inflators which could have been assembled with improperly manufactured propellant,” Toyota said in its recall announcement. “Improperly manufactured propellant could cause the inflator to rupture and the front passenger airbag to deploy abnormally in the event of a crash.”
Vehicles affected by the recall include certain 2003-2004 Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, and Tundra models, 2002-2004 Sequoias, and 2002-2004 Lexus SC 430 coupes.
Toyota says that it has no records of injuries related to the airbag defect, but Honda, which also installed Takata-produced airbags in some of its vehicles, has linked the faulty inflators to two deaths. Honda expanded its airbag recall four times to encompass 2.8 million vehicles worldwide, 2.5 million of which were in the U.S.
Takata’s faulty airbags were produced in plants in Monclava, Mexico, and Moses Lake, Wash. According to USA Today, “Takata, which has a recent history of fines and jail sentences in the U.S. for corruption among its executives, told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year that it also sold the possibly faulty airbags to General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and BMW.”
“Last year, three high-level executives of … Takata agreed to plead guilty for participating in a safety belt price-fixing conspiracy involving vehicles sold in the U.S.,” USA Today reported, adding that those executives received U.S. prison sentences.