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Safety agency to push for national air bag recall

DETROIT -- U.S. safety regulators are demanding that automakers and Takata Corp. expand nationwide a recall of vehicles with certain driver's side air bags equipped with inflators that can erupt and send metal fragments into the passenger compartment.

Previously, cars with the inflators have been recalled only in areas along the Gulf Coast with high humidity. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it's basing its latest decision on an incident that happened outside of those areas.

The owner of a 2007 Ford Mustang recently complained to the government about suffering an injury when an air bag malfunctioned in North Carolina, outside of the recall area.

The safety agency says if Takata and automakers don't agree to the recall quickly, it will use its legal powers to make sure the inflators are recalled.

"We now know that millions of vehicles must be recalled to address defective Takata air bags and our aggressive investigation is far from over," NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement.

On a conference call Tuesday, Friedman told reporters Takata has indicated they will not comply.

"Takata's initial response is an unwillingness to move forward," Freidman said." And frankly, that is one of the reasons we are talking to you today because everyone needs to understand that Takata needs to act."

The safety agency has been under intense pressure from lawmakers to seek an expansion of the recalls beyond the Gulf Coast states, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and several other U.S. territories. Friedman and others have been summoned to testify before a Senate committee on Thursday.

Takata has said that in areas of high humidity, airborne moisture can cause the air bag propellant to burn faster than designed, causing the problem.

Last week, Takata was subpoenaed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after reports that the company knew about the air bag problem 10 years ago but covered up the results of secret test. Two former Takata employees told the New York Times the testing was stopped after three months, and the evidence destroyed.

NHTSA's demand for a national recall does not cover passenger side air bags, at least not yet. The agency says it has been pushing the auto industry to do tests to make sure current recalls cover all air bags that are defective.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a hearing on the defective airbags for Thursday. Representatives from Takata, Honda, and Chrysler will testify, along with Stephanie Erdman, who nearly died when her airbag explodedwho nearly died when her airbag exploded.

"Every day, when I look in the mirror, I can still feel that piece in me," Erdman said. "I have no idea how I kept my eye. It was a miracle."

The safety agency has also been investigating Ford after receiving a complaint on Oct. 30 from the driver of a 2007 Mustang. In that case, the Mustang was going 35 mph when it crashed into the rear of another vehicle in North Carolina, causing the air bag to deploy. A metal fragment from the air bag injured the driver's leg.

The Mustang crash, which happened on Aug. 17, was notable because it occurred outside of the previous recall boundaries. North Carolina doesn't have the high level of humidity of Florida and other Gulf states.

On Monday, The Associated Press reported that Honda was quietly fixing air bags across the nation if customers were concerned about their safety. So far, Honda has formally issued recalls in 13 states and territories.

In October, NHTSA posted this list of vehicles affected by the recall, urging owners to "take immediate action." The safety agency has asked automakers for a complete list of their vehicles that have Takata air bags.

BMW: 627,615 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2000 - 2005 3 Series Sedan

2000 - 2006 3 Series Coupe

2000 - 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon

2000 - 2006 3 Series Convertible

2001 - 2006 M3 Coupe

2001 - 2006 M3 Convertible

Chrysler: 371,309 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2003 - 2008 Dodge Ram 1500

2005 - 2008 Dodge Ram 2500

2006 - 2008 Dodge Ram 3500

2006 - 2008 Dodge Ram 4500

2008 - Dodge Ram 5500

2005 - 2008 Dodge Durango

2005 - 2008 Dodge Dakota

2005 - 2008 Chrysler 300

2007 - 2008 Chrysler Aspen

Ford: 58,669 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2004 - Ranger

2005 - 2006 GT

2005 - 2007 Mustang

General Motors: undetermined total number of potentially affected vehicles

2003 - 2005 Pontiac Vibe

2005 - Saab 9-2X

Honda: 5,051,364 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2001 - 2007 Honda Accord

2001 - 2002 Honda Accord

2001 - 2005 Honda Civic

2002 - 2006 Honda CR-V

2003 - 2011 Honda Element

2002 - 2004 Honda Odyssey

2003 - 2007 Honda Pilot

2006 - Honda Ridgeline

2003 - 2006 Acura MDX

2002 - 2003 Acura TL/CL

2005 - Acura RL

Mazda: 64,872 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2003 - 2007 Mazda6

2006 - 2007 MazdaSpeed6

2004 - 2008 Mazda RX-8

2004 - 2005 MPV

2004 - B-Series Truck

Mitsubishi: 11,985 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2004 - 2005 Lancer

2006 - 2007 Raider

Nissan: 694,626 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2001 - 2003 Nissan Maxima

2001 - 2004 Nissan Pathfinder

2002 - 2004 Nissan Sentra

2001 - 2004 Infiniti I30/I35

2002 - 2003 Infiniti QX4

2003 - 2005 Infiniti FX35/FX45

Subaru: 17,516 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2003 - 2005 Baja

2003 - 2005 Legacy

2003 - 2005 Outback

2004 - 2005 Impreza

Toyota: 877,000 total number of potentially affected vehicles

2002 - 2005 Lexus SC

2002 - 2005 Toyota Corolla

2003 - 2005 Toyota Corolla Matrix

2002 - 2005 Toyota Sequoia

2003 - 2005 Toyota Tundra