Airbag Defect Prompts Recall of 3.4 Million Japanese Cars

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 11 2013 10:09 AM

Airbag Defect Prompts Recall of 3.4 Million Japanese Cars

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Workers check paints and bodies of the new model of Toyota Motor's best selling car 'Corolla' at a plant of the company's subsidiary Central Motor at Ohira village in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan on May 11, 2012

Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/GettyImages

Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda — four of Japan's top car manufacturers — are recalling over 3.4 million cars collectively because of faulty airbags. The recalled vehicles were all manufactured after 2000.

The air bags haven't caused any injuries so far, but safety part maker Takata identified a manufacturing defect that could case the air bags to improperly deploy or catch fire. According to the Washington Post, the defect is due to human error:

"The problem crept in because of two human errors during production. A worker forgot to turn on the switch for a system weeding out defective products and parts were improperly stored, which exposed them to humidity, according to Honda spokeswoman Akemi Ando."
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It looks like the recall affects cars produced between 2000 and 2004. While 732,000 of the recalled vehicles are in Japan, the faulty airbags were installed in cars sold around the world, including North America. Here's Reuters with a breakdown of the numbers by car company so far: 

"Toyota said it would recall about 1.73 million vehicles produced between November 2000 and March 2004, including 580,000 vehicles sold in North America and 490,000 vehicles sold in Europe. Honda said it was recalling around 1.14 million vehicles worldwide. Nissan Motor Co said it was recalling about 480,000 vehicles globally. It said the number of vehicles under recall could increase. Mazda Motor Co said it was recalling 45,500 vehicles worldwide."

According to Toyota, American owners of recalled vehicles will receive a letter in the mail. The American recall affects Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia, and Tundra, and Lexus SC 430 models, the company said in a press release.

Honda's American recall includes "426,000 model-year 2001-2003 Civic vehicles, approximately 43,000 CR-V vehicles from the 2002-2003 model years and approximately 92,000 model-year 2002 Odyssey vehicles in the United States," according to their statement. They'll also be contacting customers by mail, but the company says car owners can check to see if their vehicle is recalled themselves at this site.

Nissan and Mazda had fewer details available on their recalls in the U.S., but Nissan did tell the Post that the recall will affect some North American cars. According to Bloomberg, this is the biggest recall involving Takata since 1995, when faulty seat belts made by the company forced a recall of 9 million vehicles.


Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.