Toyota Widens Air-Bag Recalls on Japan Scrapyard Rupture

Toyota Motor Corp. widened a U.S. recall of its vehicles linked to defective air bags to include some of the same models in Japan and China, after one of the devices ruptured in a car at a scrapyard in its home country.

Toyota will call back about 190,000 autos in the two Asian nations, including the Corolla model, the company said in an e-mail today. All of the vehicles produced during the same period for the U.S. market are already covered by existing safety campaigns there, spokesman Dion Corbett said by phone.

Toyota and other automakers have added to recalls involving Takata air bags since a U.S. congressional hearing yesterday about the defect tied to at least five deaths. Honda Motor Co., Ford Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV have since widened the scope of their U.S. safety actions after Takata resisted expanding some regional U.S. campaigns nationwide.

“Takata’s handling of recalls has been really slow, and we’ve seen recall after recall for cars that were formerly said to have been safe,” Koji Endo, an auto analyst at Advanced Research Japan, said by phone. Automakers “can’t let Takata handle the issues anymore.”

Mazda expanded the high-humidity regional recall to include states such as Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana, raising the number of vehicles recalled for Takata air-bag inflators to an estimated 86,773. That followed similar regional expansions by Ford and Fiat Chrysler. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criticized the Chrysler decision, the first of the three to be announced, as not large enough.

Gunshot Sound

Toyota’s recall today was triggered by the report of an air bag in a 2003 Toyota WiLL Cypha that ruptured during dismantling at a scrapyard in Japan’s central Gifu prefecture, said Nobuhito Kiuchi, a transport ministry official. The carmaker decided to call back the vehicles while it examines the cause of the incident, he said.

The WiLL Cypha’s air bag ruptured with such force that it shattered the windshield of the subcompact and left metal shards on the floor, Akihiro Wakayama, a manager at the recycler, told Bloomberg News last week.

The explosion sounded “like a gunshot” and was “two to three times” louder than normal, Wakayama said.

The air bag in the Toyota model was the seventh to have ruptured at scrapyards in Japan since June 2012, where 350,000 of the devices made by Takata were evaluated and recycled every year, according to the transport ministry. The previous six ruptures -- four in Honda’s Fit and two in Toyota’s Corolla -- were reported around July 2012 and led to an additional 3 million vehicles being recalled globally.

Recycling Law

As part of Japan’s Automobile Recycling Law implemented in 2005, dismantlers are required to deploy or remove the air bags before scrapping the vehicles. They are asked to report any malfunction during the process to automakers to investigate whether a recall is needed.

Japan will ask carmakers to initiate investigative recalls if safety campaigns are expanded nationwide in the U.S., Masato Sahashi, a transport ministry official, said in Tokyo today.

Toyota rose 1.8 percent while Takata slumped 3.3 percent at the close in Tokyo trading. The carmaker has climbed 20 percent this year while the parts maker has plunged 56 percent.

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