Recall notice for car air bags

U.S. transportation officials this week broadened a recall on air bags in popular cars, including many models of Hondas, Nissans and BMW.

The defective air bag inflators, which may deploy improperly in the event of a crash and shoot shrapnel into drivers and passengers, is made worse in hot, humid climates such as Cayman’s.

This week, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demanded that the auto industry recall millions of additional cars equipped with inflators made by Takata Corp. of Japan.

Diane Hedge, with Car City in George Town, said the company is working with the Cayman Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing to come up with a list of cars in Cayman that may be affected and will get in touch with owners.

Ms. Hedge said people can call Car City with their VIN number to see if they need to get the air bags replaced, and there will be no costs for the car owner.

Previously, cars with the inflators had been recalled only in regions in the U.S. with high humidity such as Gulf Coast states, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Takata has said that prolonged exposure to moisture can cause the air bag propellant to burn faster than designed, causing the problem, the Associated Press reported.

Up until now, about 8 million cars in the U.S. with Takata inflators had been recalled for problems with either the driver or passenger side air bag, or both. Another 4 million have been recalled outside the U.S. At least five deaths worldwide have been linked to the problem.

Safety regulators say Tuesday’s action is based on incidents involving a death in California and an injury in North Carolina where the air bags were implicated. Both states are outside of the area covered by the earlier recalls.

“One can be an anomaly. Two becomes a trend, and we feel we need to act,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman.

On Wednesday, Takata said in a statement that it agrees the current recall should be expanded if the investigation it is conducting with NHTSA determines there is a safety risk. However, it said the current results indicate that a regional recall is appropriate. Takata said it has evaluated 1,000 driver and passenger inflators from outside the humid areas and none has ruptured.

The polarized positions set up a showdown between NHTSA and Takata, with automakers caught in the middle. The agency said that unless Takata and the car companies agree to the national recall quickly, it “will use the full extent of its statutory powers” to get the recall done. But clearly the agency is focused on Takata first.

Mr. Friedman said, “Everyone needs to understand that Takata needs to act.”

Hiroshi Shimizu, vice president for quality with Takata, said in a U.S. Senate committee hearing Thursday that the recall should be limited to humid areas.

Lawmakers have criticized NHTSA for not forcing a nationwide recall sooner, and for what they say is a haphazard and slow response to the deadly problem.

“We are confident that the air bags Takata is producing today, including the replacement for recalled units, are safe,” Mr. Shimizu said.

In Cayman

Baba Rokabe, with Sony’s Auto in Cayman, said he had not heard about the recall. He did say that cars from Japan are much more popular than American imports. “Japanese cars are good business here,” he said.

Mr. Rokabe said the most popular cars for his customers are Honda CR-Vs and Accords, many of which could be subject to the recall.

The most popular cars for Cayman on the recall list are the 2001 to 2005 Honda Civic, 2002 to 2006 Honda CR-V, most 2000 to 2005 BMW 3 Series.

Concerned car owners should call Car City at 949-0440.

To see the full list of cars affected by the air bag recall, see nhtsa.gov.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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