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BMW Recalls Cars for Airbag Defect That Could Spray Shrapnel

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BMW driver and front passenger airbags

This image from BMW shows the front passenger airbags.

BMW announced on Monday that it is recalling 42,000 model year 2003 and 2003 3-series cars, in a massive recall involving five other automakers, because the front-passenger-side airbags could spray shrapnel inside the car in the case of a crash, as Ronald D. White reports for the Los Angeles Times.

In BMW’s case, the airbags might not inflate properly in a crash, the automaker announced. White quotes BMW: “We have not had a single case of a reported failure in our cars, but it is the same problem, yes,” said BMW spokesman Julian Arguelles, in an interview.

The five other automakers — Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and General Motors, said last month that they were recalling 3.4 million vehicles because of the problem, David Shepardson writes for The Detroit News. The Toyota recall involves 1.7 million vehicles worldwide, of which 510,000 are in the U.S. They include 2001-2003 models, the Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia, Tunda, and Lexus SC 430.

Toyota began investigating the problem after hearing about an instrument panel fire in an October 2011 car accident involving a faulty airbag inflator, Shepardson writes. The carmaker said although it believes only 170,000 of its vehicles will need repairs, it needs to recall and inspect all 510,000.

GM plans to recall 48,000 2003 Pontiac Vibe models in the U.S. (which was assembled in a joint GM-Toyota facility) and as many as 7,000 in Canada.

Shepardson writes:

Honda recalled 561,000 vehicles in the U.S.: the 2001-2003 Civic, 2002-2003 CR-V and 2002 Honda Odyssey, while Nissan is recalling 480,000 vehicles worldwide, including about 265,000 in the United States including the 2001-2003 Maxima, Pathfinder Sentra, Infiniti FX crossover and QX4.

Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs said the recall shows the impact of automakers using common parts ‘This recall is an example of one of the downsides of using ‘super suppliers’ for important vehicle components,’ she said.

The defect was caused by faulty manufacturing in 2001 and 2002 by Takata Corp., the “Japanese company that made the explosive wafers that power the lightning-quick inflation of airbags,” as White writes. Those wafers were made at Takata’s factories in Moses Lake, Washington, and Monclova, Mexico.

There have been six road incidents reported due to the airbags, four in the U.S. and two in Japan, plus six at Japanese salvage yards during the dismantling of the vehicles, but no injuries were reported. White notes that a similar defect in Takata-produced parts involving driver’s side airbags has killed several people.

BMW said it will contact car owners about the recall via first-class mail. When parts are available, it will contact owners to make appointments to have the airbags replaced. BMW owners can also call 800-525-7417 or email BMW at customer.relations@bmwna.com.

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