The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has once again changed the number of cars included in a massive and urgent recall over an inflator defect in air bags made by the Japanese company Takata.
Initially, 4.7 million vehicles were recalled, but in a list released on Wednesday, NHTSA added 3.1 million additional vehicles.
The Associated Press reports NHTSA has had difficulties getting the right facts out about the recall this week:
"[T]he regulatory agency has twice corrected the number of vehicles affected and acknowledged that a list it released Monday wasn't completely accurate. The agency urged people to use its website to see if their cars are affected — but a feature allowing people to check for recalls by vehicle identification number malfunctioned Monday night and still wasn't operational Wednesday."
Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton told our Newscast Unit that the bags in the recalled cars may have "faulty inflators that can rupture and send metal fragments flying out." Samilton says at least four people have died in accidents related to the air bag problem. Officials believe prolonged exposure to high heat and humidity might be a cause for the defect. That's led NHTSA to give a special warning to vehicle owners in warm, humid climates.
"The message comes with urgency, especially for owners of vehicles affected by regional recalls in the following areas: Florida, Puerto Rico, limited areas near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii."
Toyota was one of the automakers with vehicles added to the expanded list. But Reuters reports the automaker says it will stand by Takata:
"[A] top Toyota Motor Corp. executive said in Tokyo that the Japanese automaker had no plans to abandon Takata despite the supplier's struggles." 'Toyota's not one to just dump a supplier,' Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's head of Latin American operations and the former chief quality officer in North America, told reporters. 'Have we ever eliminated a supplier? Yes. But it's really, really tough. We will exhaust every opportunity to help that supplier first.' "
David Shepardson, the Washington bureau chief of the Detroit News, told NPR's David Greene that in some places, Toyota is shifting replacement air bags away from colder states to warm-weather states. Shepardson also said Toyota is telling some vehicle owners that it will deactivate their passenger air bags until they can be replaced.
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