Takata airbag recall could be expanded by 90 million more inflators

Takata Corp. airbag recall

However, this estimation could be severely affected by news that US auto regulators are examining whether an additional 70-90 million Takata Corp airbag inflators should be recalled.

Several automakers have already issued new recalls to customers.

The inflators in question might malfunction and send shrapnel into the cabin, which has been linked to nine deaths in the US.

For now, the United States authorities have recalled about 28 million airbags manufactured by the Japanese OEM and equipped inflators ammonium nitrate, which can explode if minor collision, sending fragments of the driver or passenger.

The number of vehicles affected remains unclear because many have more than one inflator, and not always from the same manufacturer.

Reuters, in its report today, said it interviewed former Takata managers that described "chronic" quality failures at Takata's North American inflator plants.

"That number of inflators that may eventually be recalled under that consent order is in the multiple tens of millions".

Honda Motor Co., Takata's biggest customer and a minority shareholder, is not aware of whether 90 million more air bags need to be replaced, spokeswoman Yuka Abe said.

Massive recalls may further cause the Japanese supplier to incur additional costs and add more years to complete the replacement process.

Takata reached an agreement with regulators before Christmas to pay a $70 million penalty to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). And Takata went a step further, promising to declare all airbag systems using ammonium nitrate to be unsafe, unless it could prove otherwise by 2019.

Takata supplied those inflators to more than a dozen automakers, according to company documents reviewed by Reuters.

The chemical propellant that ignites the air bag inflators - ammonium nitrate - can be damaged by moisture over time in humid environments. A Takata competitor, airbag supplier Autoliv Inc, is also making replacements for recalled Takata inflators and recently told investors it expects to continue making those parts through 2017, one year longer than originally planned. The automaker said that 1.5 million vehicles have been summoned back to dealers, cars which were produced in Japan and at other overseas plants and sold in Europe, China, Australia and other Asian countries.

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