Joint Air Bag Recall Affects More Than 3 Million Cars

Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda simultaneously announced a global recall of nearly 3.4 million vehicles to replace defective air bags. The faulty air bags could deploy with excessive force and send shards of metal into the passenger side area. Coordinated recalls are unusual in the auto industry.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. More than 3 million cars and trucks worldwide are being recalled. Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mazda, Nissan and Pontiac all say some of their vehicles made between 2001 and 2003, could potentially have faulty air bags.

NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: In Japan, there's a company called Takata. It started out making safety equipment such as parachutes and safety lines, in the '30s; and it moved into cars, making some of the first seatbelts, and on to making air bags for all types of cars.

ALBY BERMAN: I'm Alby Berman, and I'm the vice president of communications for Takata Corp.

GLINTON: Berman says the company realized that many of the air bags placed in vehicles between 2001 and 2003, may not deploy properly in a crash. He says two things can happen because of a problem with a device inside the air bag.

BERMAN: One is that will not fill the air bag, so the air bag will not function during a crash. And the second thing it could do is rupture to the point where it has flying parts, which could actually cause injury to the passengers.

GLINTON: So far, none of the automakers are aware of any deaths or injuries because of the defect. Chris Martin, with Honda, says years ago, a recall of this size would have been very unusual.

CHRIS MARTIN: It's less unusual in these days, with major automobile suppliers supplying to multiple global automakers. And, you know, when a common problem is discovered, it's something that's of concern for every automaker.

GLINTON: Steve Yaeger, with Nissan, says recalls are more common. But that doesn't mean drivers should pay less attention.

STEVE YEAGER: When you get a safety recall letter, no matter what kind of car you drive, you should act on it and go to your dealer, get it squared away - just so you have confidence in your vehicle 24/7.

GLINTON: Owners of some 2001 to 2003 Toyota, BMW, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Pontiac cars will be notified by first-class mail this May.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Culver City.

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