Toyota, three other Japan carmakers to recall 3.4m vehicles over airbag

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Four Japanese automakers including Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co are recalling a total of around 3.4 million vehicles worldwide due to defective airbags supplied by Takata Corp, the companies said.

Takata has also supplied the faulty airbags to foreign carmakers, said Toyohiro Hishikawa, spokesman for the Tokyo-listed components maker, declining to identify them. The firm's shares tumbled almost 10 per cent on Thursday.

This recall - the biggest since Toyota pulled back more than 7 million vehicles last October - underscores the risk of huge global supply chain problems as automakers increasingly rely on a handful of suppliers for common or similar parts to cut costs.

Globally, the world's biggest selling automaker Toyota is recalling about 1.73 million vehicles produced between November 2000 and March 2004, including 580,000 vehicles in North America and 490,000 vehicles in Europe.

Some airbags at the front passenger seat may not inflate correctly because of a problem with the propellant used in the airbag inflator, Toyota spokesman Ryo Sakai said.

Tokyo-based Takata supplies airbags and seatbelts to major automakers including Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co as well as the Japanese brands.

A second Takata spokesman Hideyuki Matsumoto said the defect was caused by problems in the manufacturing process.

There were no injuries or deaths reported as a result of the faulty airbags, Toyota said. The automaker said there was a risk of fires starting or passengers being injured because of the flawed inflators.

Toyota will exchange the faulty inflators for new ones, a fix that is expected to take about an hour to two-and-a-half hours for most models, spokesman Sakai said. He declined to give the costs related to the recall.

"The inflators themselves are not so expensive, but there is the cost to cover for the hours spent to fix the problem," said Mr Kohei Takahashi, an automotives analyst at JP Morgan in Japan.

Honda said it is recalling around 1.14 million vehicles worldwide. Nissan Motor Co said it is recalling about 480,000 vehicles globally, and that there may be more.

Mazda Motor Corp said it is recalling about 45,500 vehicles.

Takata estimates there are about 2 million vehicles using the defective airbag, spokesman Hideyuki Matsumoto said.

The airbag problem, announced during Japanese trading hours, hit Takata's shares much more strongly than it did the automakers.

Takata's shares plunged 9 per cent to close at 1,819 yen.

Shares in Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda, which continue to be supported by a weakening yen and Japan's new economic policies, were up between 3.1 and 5.8 per cent, outpacing a 2 per cent rise in the benchmark Nikkei.