US orders recall of up to 40 million more Takata airbags

 Technician Edward Bonilla holds a recalled Takata airbag inflator in a file photo after he removed it from a Honda Pilot.
Technician Edward Bonilla holds a recalled Takata airbag inflator in a file photo after he removed it from a Honda Pilot.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US auto safety regulators on Wednesday ordered Japanese manufacturer Takata to recall between 35 and 40 million more airbags installed in US cars, in a push for the replacement of dangerously explosive inflators.

The decision comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that the inflators are prone to ruptures that have been tied to 11 deaths worldwide, and adds to nearly 29 million Takata airbags already recalled.

The announcement represented an acceleration of planned recalls over the next three years as evidence of the reason behind the exploding inflators became more clear.

Investigators have tied accidents in which airbag inflators ruptured, sending shrapnel into car drivers and passengers, to the deterioration of the inflators' ammonium nitrate propellant under high humidity and fluctuating heat conditions.

More than 100 incidents and 10 deaths have been tied to the issue in the United States.

"The science clearly shows that these inflators become unsafe over time, faster when exposed to humidity and variations of temperature," said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind.

Rosekind pointed out that the previous recalls had already covered those inflator models specifically responsible for the known incidents.

The new recall, which will involve tens of millions of cars of a broad range of makes and models, covers additional Takata inflator types that do not include a desiccant that absorbs moisture.

It will be phased over the next three years with the priority on those with the highest risk, based on the age of the inflators and their exposure to high temperatures and humidity.

"This recall schedule ensures the inflators will be recalled and replaced before they become dangerous, giving vehicle owners sufficient time to have them replaced before they pose a danger to vehicle occupants," Rosekind said.