Ford expands air bag recall
Washington — Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it will expand a driver-side air bag recall nationwide, adding 447,310 additional vehicles as demanded by the U.S. government — the third of five automakers to do so.
Under government pressure, the Dearborn automaker said with the expansion, it has recalled 502,489 vehicles for Takata driver-side air bags, along with another 36,000 for passenger-side air bags. The air bags can send shrapnel into drivers and passengers. Until now, most of the vehicles recalled were in high-humidity areas.
In total, 10 automakers have now called back more than 11.5 million vehicles with Takata airbags since 2013. The automakers met last week in Romulus to discuss hiring an outside engineering firm for independent testing, while NHTSA also has hired an outside firm for testing. Automakers still don’t know the root cause of the driver-side failures and Takata argues the risks are very very small.
Ford’s expanded recall includes 2005-08 Ford Mustang vehicles built Aug. 18, 2004 to June 25, 2007 at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant and 2005-06 Ford GT vehicles built Feb. 11, 2005 to Jan. 30, 2006 at the Wixom Assembly Plant in Michigan.
Ford said the new recall includes 462,911 vehicles in the United States, 27,516 in Canada and 7,578 in Mexico. Approximately 4,484 additional vehicles outside of North America are also included.
In calling for the nationwide recall, NHTSA cited an August incident involving a driver’s side air bag failure in North Carolina in a 2007 Ford Mustang that resulted in cuts and burns to the driver — outside the regional recall area. That’s in addition to five previous driver’s side air bag ruptures — including another in a non-high humidity state.
NHTSA Deputy Chief David Friedman told reporters last month that “one incident is an anomaly, but two are a trend” in seeking the recall. NHTSA has issued a formal demand to Takata, but not to the automakers.
Automakers have also expanded recalls for additional passenger air bags in recent weeks after Takata expanded the number of high humidity states where it believes the air bags are subject to possible failures.
Honda Motor Co. agreed to recall 2.6 million vehicles at NHTSA’s request, while Mazda has also agreed to recall about 250,000 additional vehicles. BMW AG and Chrysler Group LLC have not yet agreed.
“Chrysler, BMW, and Takata have failed to take the same action and, if necessary, we are prepared to force them to do so in the interest of public safety,” Friedman said in a statement.
BMW spokesman Dave Buchko said Thursday there is no change in its position. Chrysler didn’t offer an immediate response.
Earlier this week, Friedman said the agency would go to court to force Takata and the automakers to comply, saying it would mount an “air tight case.”
Also on Thursday, an open letter from Takata CEO Shigehisa Takada was published in The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and other papers, but didn’t change the company’s refusal to expand the driver-side air bag recall nationally by 8 million vehicles. The company has repeatedly argued there is no scientific basis to expand the recall nationally.
Inflators in the air bags can explode and send shrapnel flying at drivers and passengers. Takata air bags are linked to at least five deaths and and at least 50 injuries, most in high-humidity areas. All of the deaths have been in Honda vehicles — with four in the United States. Honda has recalled 5.4 million vehicles in the United States for driver side airbags, and said it will use another air bag manufacturer for parts — but won’t get parts from the company for at least six months.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.