Under pressure from regulators in Washington, Japan’s Takata is to recall and fix between 35 and 40 million additional airbag inflators in the United States.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the decision “follows the agency’s confirmation of the root cause behind the inflators’ propensity to rupture”.
That will more than double what is already the largest and most complex car safety recall in US history.
The expanded recall will be phased in over several years and cover all frontal air bag inflators that do not contain a drying agent.
Expert reviews found a combination of time, environmental moisture and fluctuating high temperatures contribute to the degradation of the ammonium nitrate propellant in the inflators.
To date, 14 carmakers have recalled 24 million US vehicle due to the risk that airbags can explode with too much force and spray metal shards inside vehicles.
“The acceleration of this recall is based on scientific evidence and will protect all Americans from air bag inflators that may become unsafe,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
Last month, NHTSA said there were about 85 million unrecalled Takata air bag inflators in US vehicles that would need to be recalled by 2019 unless the company could prove they are safe.
The recall expansion does not include additional inflators that have a chemical desiccant in them that absorbs moisture. There have been no reported ruptures of those desiccated inflators, but NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said the agency could order a recall if new facts emerged.
At least 11 people have been killed worldwide in incidents linked to defective Takata inflators. The latest was the March 31 death of a 17-year-old driver in Texas.
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