Takata is recalling 1.4 million front driver inflators in BMW 3-Series cars after finding a new and distinct air bag problem, according to government documents posted Wednesday. BMW is warning owners of some older 3-series cars to stop driving them.
At least one driver has been killed by the malfunction, while another Australian and a driver in Cyprus were injured, according to government documents.
The recently discovered malfunction is different than the defect that led to at least 24 deaths and hundreds of injuries worldwide, though the result, like the earlier issue, leads to air bags that can explode and hurl shrapnel, killing or injuring people.
Included in the recall Wednesday are more than 116,000 BMW 3-Series cars from the 1999 to 2001 model years. About 8,000 definitely have faulty inflators and should be parked, BMW said. The rest can still be driven.
In addition, certain Audi, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi vehicles made from 1995 to 2000 also are being recalled, but information on which models was not available Wednesday.
Takata air bags have been the subject of ongoing recalls since 2014, when government issued an urgent letter advising consumers to take immediate action to fix exploding air bags. The explosions from the defective air bags can send shrapnel through a vehicle, injuring or even killing drivers and passengers. But the latest BMW recall involves a different type of inflator.
Air bag propellant
Unlike previous recalls, the Takata non-azide inflators do not use volatile ammonium nitrate to fill the air bags in a crash. But the air bag propellant can still deteriorate over time when exposed to moisture and explode too fast, blowing apart the inflator body. They also might not fully inflate to protect people in a crash.
Takata says in government documents that it made about 4.5 million of the inflators worldwide but only a portion are still in use because the vehicles are so old. The faulty inflators have problems with insufficient seals.
Toyota and Honda said they're still figuring out which models will have to be recalled. U.S. safety regulators said they were told by Mitsubishi that the only U.S. vehicle affected is the 1998 through 2000 Montero. A company spokesman was seeking more information.
In a statement, Audi said it is investigating whether any 1997 to 1999 model year A4, A6, A8, or TT vehicles are affected in the U.S.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement that it is in discussions with automakers about the recalls. It urged owners to search for recalls in the coming weeks by entering their vehicle identification number at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls
In the BMW recalls, the company is recommending that people stop driving certain 1999 323i and 328i sedans made from July of 1998 through January of 1999. Spokesman Oleg Satanovsky said those cars have inflators that were made at a Takata factory and are known to be faulty because they were manufactured before production improvements.
The company also is recalling another 34,000 323i and 328i sedans from 1999-2000 and 323Ci and 328Ci coupes from the 2000 model year. These cars were made from March of 1998 through March of 2000 and have inflators made at two Takata plants that could be defective. Satanovsky says these cars will be inspected and some could get new inflators.
A third group of cars, just over 74,000, is being recalled. This group includes 323i, 325i, 328i, 330i sedans from the 1999 through 2001 model years. They were produced from May 1999 through July of 2000 and may have had air bag inflators replaced by defective ones. They also will be inspected.
BMW is still developing a remedy for the problem, but the company intends to replace faulty inflators with new ones. The company says owners will be notified when parts are available.