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Japanese Carmakers Recall Millions Of Vehicles Over Faulty Airbags

Some 3.4 million vehicles produced by four Japanese automakers are being voluntarily recalled due to faulty airbag inflators.

The inflators were installed in some of Toyota's top-selling Camry and Corolla models produced since 2000. Certain Honda Civics and Mazdas are also subject to recall, which also reportedly includes the Maxima and Cube, according to Reuters.

The defective passenger-side airbag inflators were produced by Tokyo-based Takata at a Mexican plant, Reuters says.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA says in a statement released Thursday that "improperly manufactured propellent wafers could cause the inflator to rupture and the front passenger airbag to deploy abnormally in the event of a crash."

American Honda, in a similar statement, says: "It is possible that the passenger front airbag inflators in affected vehicles may deploy with too much pressure, which may cause the inflator casing to rupture and could result in injury."

Toyota and Honda have provided some specifics of the vehicles affected:

(See update below for Nissan.)

Toyota says 1.73 million vehicles worldwide (580,000 in North America) will be recalled, including certain Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia, Tundra and Lexus SC 430 models made between 2001 and 2003.

Honda says 1.14 million vehicles worldwide (561,000 in the United States) are subject to recall, including certain 2001-2003 model Civics, 2002-2003 CR-Vs and 2002 Odysseys.

Some non-Japanese automakers were also supplied with the faulty airbags, Takata spokesman Toyohiro Hishikawa was quoted by Reuters as saying. He declined to name those automakers, but The New York Times reports that Takata supplies airbags and seat belts to major automakers outside Japan, including Daimler and Ford Motor, as well as to the Japanese brands.

Bloomberg says this is the biggest recall involving Tokyo-based Takata, the world's second-largest maker of airbags and seatbelts, since 1995, "when several automakers called back almost 9 million vehicles to replace faulty seat belts ... a record for the auto industry at the time."

"It looks like the cost of the recalls may be pretty big," Satoru Takada, a Tokyo-based analyst at Toward the Infinite World told Bloomberg. "It doesn't seem like something that would be easy to identify and fix. But if the cause is clear, it shouldn't have a lasting effect."

Kohei Takahashi, an auto industry analyst at JPMorgan in Japan, told Reuters: "The inflators themselves are not so expensive, but there is the cost to cover for the hours spent to fix the problem."

Toyota says owners of vehicles subject to recall will be notified by first-class mail and that if the an airbag inflator is deemed faulty, it will be replaced free of charge.

UPDATE at 10:10 a.m. ET: Details on Nissan Recalls:

A Nissan USA spokesman tells NPR that 480,000 vehicles made by the company worldwide (265,367 in the United States) will be recalled — including the U.S. model year 2000-2003 Nissan Maxima, Infiniti FX, Infiniti QX4, Nissan Pathfinder and Nissan Sentra. The spokesman says Nissan is unaware of any incidents involving the airbags in its own vehicles and that the recall was prompted by a "handful of incidents" in competitors' vehicles.

"Nissan plans to begin notifying customers within 30 days. Nissan dealers will replace the front passenger airbag inflator with a countermeasured one at no cost to the customers for parts or labor," the company said in a statement.

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