Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda recall 3.4 million vehicles 

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By Michael Strong

Four Japanese automakers – Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda – are recalling 3.4 million vehicles for defective airbag systems because they could catch fire or inadvertently inflate injuring passengers.

This recall highlights the danger of global supply chain problems as automakers increasingly rely on a small number of suppliers for common or similar parts.

The recall is the largest ever for airbags made by Takata Corp., the world's second-largest supplier of airbags and seatbelts. Due to a manufacturing defect in the propellant for the inflator, the airbag for the front passenger seat may not inflate correctly. As a result, there is a risk of fires starting or of passengers being injured. The faulty airbags were manufactured between 2000 and 2002 in a Takata factory in Mexico.

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The recall covers some of the top-selling Japanese cars, including Toyota's Camry and Corolla, and the Nissan Maxima and Honda Civic. All of the vehicles in question were manufactured in or after 2000. In addition to Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan, the Tokyo-based supplier said it also supplies airbags and seatbelts Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co. Some non-Japanese automakers were also supplied with the faulty airbags, the company said while declining to name those automakers.

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The recall is the biggest since Toyota called in more than 7 million vehicles last October. It’s just one in a lengthening list of embarrassing recalls that Japanese automakers, long known as the benchmarks for quality, have issued in recent years. In fact, Toyota has issued more individual recalls than any maker worldwide in three of the last four years.

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Toyota is recalling 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 is recalling around 1.14 million vehicles worldwide. Nissan will recall about 480,000 vehicles globally, although it said the number of vehicles under recall could increase. Mazda said it was recalling 45,500 vehicles worldwide.

The Toyota models covered by the recall include the Corolla, Tundra, Yaris and Camry. Nissan models include the Maxima and the Cube.

Honda announced it will recall more than 470,000 sedans, minivans and crossover-utility vehicles due to defective systems. The problem has been linked to such incidents in the past in other vehicles the maker has had to recall for similar issues. In fact, Honda recalled 750,000 other vehicles due to airbag defects earlier this year.

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Airbag problems have become a serious embarrassment for Honda – complicating the fact that the maker already is on record as having one of the highest recall totals of any maker operating in the U.S. in recent years.

The latest U.S. Honda recall covers approximately 426,000 subcompact Civic models sold during the 2001 to 2003 model-years, 43,000 CR-V crossovers offered in 2002 and 2003, and another 92,000 Odyssey minivans from the 2002 model-year.

“It is possible that the passenger front airbag inflators in affected vehicles may deploy with too much pressure, which may cause the inflator casing to rupture and could result in injury,” the maker acknowledged in a statement.

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It added that it was “aware” of one crash in which the front airbag deployed too forcefully, though there have been no injuries or deaths related to the issue in the models impacted by the latest recall.

In January, the Japanese maker ordered the recall of 748,000 Pilot crossovers and Odyssey minivans due to missing rivets that could cause airbags to improperly deploy in an accident. (That figure covered the U.S. market, with another 29,000 of the vehicles recalled in Canada.)

It has experienced a number of earlier recalls for other airbag-related problems that have now added up to millions of vehicles.

Dealers will handle the repairs at no cost to owners.