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BMW driver death sees Takata recall 1.4 million air bags

After a fatality and injury in Australia, linked to faulty air-bag inflators.
Image: Shutterstock
 

Takata, the parts supplier behind the largest auto recall ever, told U.S. safety regulators another 1.4 million vehicles need to be repaired over a defect linked to the death of a BMW driver and two other injuries in overseas markets.

Components Takata supplied to five of the world’s biggest car manufacturers may absorb moisture that could either cause air bags to rupture or under-inflate, according to a notice on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.

The recall involves parts produced from 1995 through 1999 and sold to BMW, Volkswagen AG’s Audi, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

BMW issued three recalls covering roughly 116,000 U.S. vehicles containing the parts and recommended roughly 8,000 of those should not be driven until they’re fixed, the NHTSA said in a statement. The luxury-car maker is aware of one fatality and one injury in Australia linked to the faulty air-bag inflators, plus another injury in Cyprus, according to filings with the agency. The company told the NHTSA in November it hadn’t received reports of similar incidents in the U.S.

The callbacks and fatality disclosed Wednesday are the latest twist in a years-long saga that landed Takata in bankruptcy two years ago. The Japanese manufacturer supplied tens of millions of defective air-bag inflators for years that were prone to exploding in a crash and injuring or killing car occupants by spraying metal shards. Takata pleaded guilty as part of a $1 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over its handling of the issue.

Takata was purchased in April 2018 by a unit of China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp., and the combined unit was renamed Joyson Safety Systems.

Past Takata recalls were blamed on its use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant to inflate air bags in the event of a crash. For its latest safety campaign, the company is citing a manufacturing issue that affected inflators containing a non-azide propellant.

The parts maker said it produced and sold 4.45 million of the inflators globally during the time period covered by the recall. According to Takata’s safety recall report to the NHTSA, the number of inflators it produced for vehicles sold in the U.S. was “substantially smaller but is not precisely known at this time.” Because of the age of the potentially affected vehicles, only a portion remain in service, the company said.

BMW is the only carmaker to have issued vehicle recalls in the U.S. over the inflators so far.

Honda is trying to understand which models are affected and can’t say how many vehicles are impacted, a spokeswoman for the company said. A Mitsubishi spokesman said the company is identifying the models and countries involved, though the NHTSA said only the Mitsubishi Montero is affected in the U.S.

Toyota is investigating the issue and working with the NHTSA and Joyson, a spokeswoman for the automaker said. Joyson representatives couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.Audi’s U.S. unit is cooperating with NHTSA and investigating whether some its U.S. vehicles from model years 1997 through 1999 are affected, a spokeswoman said by email.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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