TAKATA CASE CONTINUES: US senator Richard Blumenthal holds part of a Takata air bag during a senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Image: AP / Susan Walsh
TOKYO, Japan - Toyota and Nissan, Japan's two top automakers, on Thursday (June 25) expanded their global car recall by over three million vehicles to replace potentially deadly air bags that have already been linked to eight deaths.
Toyota said it will call back an additional 2.86-million vehicles "equipped with certain front passenger air-bag inflators" worldwide, while Nissan said it would recall 198 000 units.
Smaller rival Japanese automaker Mitsubishi also said on Thursday (June 26) it would recall 120 000 vehicles.
Faulty air bags made by Takata have been linked to several deadly accidents, forcing automakers to recall tens of millions of vehicles and opening the Japanese company to a public inquiry by US lawmakers.
Takata chairman and CEO Shigehisa Takada on Thursday apologised for the crisis at his first public appearance since it began.
Takada said at a news conference in Tokyo: "I send my deepest condolence to those who died and were injured in accidents due to our company's inflator. I also apologise for all of those affected by (the recalls)."
Tokyo-based Takata last month agreed to double a US recall to a record of more than 30-million vehicles made by some of the world's biggest automakers.
Before Thursday, Toyota had said 12.66-million of its units have been affected, although Honda, Japan's number three automaker, has been the hardest hit, with more than 19-million recalled.
The defect - thought to be linked to a chemical propellant that helps inflate the airbags - can cause them to deploy with explosive force, sending metal shrapnel hurtling toward drivers and passengers.
SEARCHING THE CAUSE
A senior Takata executive told US lawmakers in June that the company was still searching for the main cause of the deadly explosions.
Hours before the additional recalls were reported on Thursday, Takata held a shareholders' meeting in Tokyo, where executives bowed in apology for the plunging stock price and lack of dividend, people who attended said.
The company - one of the world's biggest airbag makers - had originally planned to air the meeting live on the Internet but abruptly cancelled it.
"It wasn't satisfactory at all. I would give it 50 points out 100," said shareholder Hiromi Tamura as he emerged from the closed-door meeting. "There is no clear prospect (for resolution). I don't think they are confident in themselves either."
Another shareholder Shizuo Sakaguchi said: "The responses by the company are unacceptable. Many shareholders were asking what specific measures the company is going to take."
On Monday (June 22) Honda confirmed a new death linked to an exploding air bag crisis, bringing the global total to eight fatalities.
The company said a woman in Los Angeles died in September 2014 after the faulty inflator in a 2001 Honda Civic ruptured, firing metal shrapnel at her.