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U.S. agency confirms air bag safety probe into 30 million vehicles

Stock MarketsSep 21, 2021 07:06AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Heavy vehicular traffic is seen in the Ocean Beach neighbourhood of San Diego, California, U.S., ahead of the Fourth of July holiday July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. auto safety investigators said on Tuesday they have opened a probe into 30 million vehicles built by nearly two dozen automakers that have potentially defective Takata air bag inflators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an engineering analysis into an estimated 30 million U.S. vehicles from the 2001 through 2019 model years, Reuters first reported on Sunday, citing a document that had not been made public. The agency confirmed the new probe on Tuesday and said it applied to 1,384 different vehicle models.

No immediate safety risk has been identified and drivers do not need to take action, the agency said.

Over the last decade, more than 67 million Takata air bag inflators have been recalled in the United States and more than 100 million worldwide, in the biggest auto safety callback in history prompted by concerns the inflators could explode and, in rare instances, send deadly metal fragments flying.

There have been at least 28 deaths worldwide, including 19 in the United States tied to faulty Takata inflators, and more than 400 injuries.

The new investigation includes vehicles assembled by Honda Motor Co, Ford Motor (NYSE:F) Co, Toyota Motor (NYSE:TM) Corp, General Motors Co (NYSE:GM), Nissan (OTC:NSANY) Motor, Subaru (OTC:FUJHY), Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), Ferrari NV (MI:RACE), Nissan Motor, Mazda, Daimler AG (DE:DAIGn), BMW Chrysler (now part of Stellantis NV), Porsche Cars, Jaguar Land Rover (owned by Tata Motors (NYSE:TTM)), among others.

NHTSA said in an emailed statement that "while no present safety risk has been identified, further work is needed to evaluate the future risk of non-recalled" inflators.

The agency added it "is not aware at this time of any ruptures, injuries or fatalities due to propellant degradation in these inflators, and the driving public does not need to take any action."

The 30 million vehicles that are part of the new investigation have inflators with a "desiccant" or drying agent.

NHTSA has said the prior Takata recalls were spurred by propellant that could break down after long-term exposure to high-temperature fluctuations and humidity. The agency has required all similar Takata airbags without a drying agent to be recalled.

Automakers affected by the probe either said they were cooperating with the agency or did not immediately comment.

Honda said automakers "have been working collaboratively with NHTSA to assure the safety of these inflators for several years... Honda is committed to quickly informing NHTSA and other stakeholders if this ongoing analysis shows any risk of rupture."

The Japanese automaker vowed to take quick action "if Honda believes that there is a threat to the safety of our customers.

In the United States, 16 deaths in Honda vehicles have been reported, two in Ford vehicles and one in a BMW, while 9 other Honda deaths occurred in Malaysia, Brazil and Mexico.

U.S. agency confirms air bag safety probe into 30 million vehicles
 

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