Toyota is, in effect, re-recalling 766,300 cars and trucks in the U.S. for continued risk of shrapnel blasting out of the front passenger airbag.
Toyota thought it fixed the vehicles after an April 2013 recall, but discovered that supplier Takata might have provided an incomplete list of potentially defective airbag units. So some vehicles that Toyota had presumed last year didn’t need replacement now have to be fixed.
It’s the latest in a series of airbag recalls blamed on improper manufacturing more than a decade ago in North American plants by Japan’s Takata, defects that continue to haunt automakers who use Takata airbags.
The foul-ups at Takata’s plants in Monclava, Mexico and Moses Lake, Washington, began as early as April 13, 2000, and were remedied no later than Nov. 1, 2002, the safety-equipment maker said in a report to U.S. safety officials in connection with the airbag recall last year.
The specifics are different in the two plants, but the result is the same: airbag inflators that blast out the bags with too much force, sending what amounts to shrapnel into the front seat passenger. Toyota in its latest action warns that the fault can “propel fragments toward occupants.”
Takata, which has a recent history of fines and jail sentences in the U.S. for corruption among its executives, told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year that it also sold the possibly faulty airbags to General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and BMW.
While Toyota knows of no injuries or crashes, Honda blamed the faulty inflators for two deaths in 2009. Honda eventually expanded its original Takata airbag recall four times, affecting 2.8 million vehicles worldwide, 2.5 million of those in the U.S.
Toyota says it knows of nothing worse than a burnt seat cover.
Takata replaced its president in 2013 with the first non-Japanese boss, but claimed the move had nothing to do with the airbag recalls.
Last year, three high-level executives of Tokyo-based Takata agreed to plead guilty for participating in a safety belt price-fixing conspiracy involving vehicles sold in the U.S., the Department of Justice said in November.
The executives also agreed to serve time in a U.S. prison.
In 1995, Takata was blamed for safety belts that didn’t latch properly, leading to a recall of 8.43 million vehicles in the U.S. that used the Takata belts.
Toyota says its latest action covers the same vehicles recalled April 2013, and alls the move a “renotification” of owners in the original recall.
- 2003-2004 Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, and Tundra
- 2002-2004 Sequoia
- 2002-2004 Lexus SC 430 coupes.
Honda’s need to expand the Takata airbag recall so many times “identifies some pretty bad process control” at both Honda and Takata, spokesman Chris Martin said in 2011 when the latest Honda recall expansion was announced.
Honda said at the time that it initially was told by Takata that only a small number of vehicles were at risk, so the initial recall was limited. “We were told there was this very small lot of air bags included. Then we got an expanded list, and that turned out not to be true,” Martin says.