Subaru, Mitsubishi join other car makers in air bag recall

Subaru, Mitsubishi join other major auto manufacturers in recalls of vehicles with faulty air bags

Subaru and Mitsubishi are the latest car companies to be hit by the expanding air bag recall crisis.

The two Japanese automakers announced independently late last week that some of their cars are equipped with faulty air bags that could explode upon deployment, possibly injuring drivers or passengers with flying shrapnel.

The air bags in both instances were manufactured by Japan's Takata Corp., makers of faulty airbags already associated with more than 3 million auto recalls from Honda, Nissan, Ford, Chrysler, Mazda and BMW. 

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has found that on some of vehicles, the propellant housed in a metal canister in the system can burn too quickly, causing the container to explode and metal shards to spray into the automobile's passenger cabin. Sometimes the problem is with the driver’s air bag; at other times it occurs on the passenger side.

Millions of vehicles in the U.S. and elsewhere have previously been recalled for the problem. The NHTSA has received reports of multiple injuries caused by the problem.

In Subaru's case, the company said it was recalling some 2003-04 Legacy, Outback and Baja vehicles, and some 2004 Imprezas, including its high performance WRX/STI cars.

Citing the Takata air bag, Subaru reported to the NHTSA that, "In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the passenger side frontal air bag, the inflator could rupture with metal fragments striking and potentially seriously injuring the vehicle occupants."

Mitsubishi also named the Takata part specifically, and said it was issuing a "limited regional recall" for some 2004-05 Lancer vehicles -- the affected regions being Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Both car companies said they would be notifying owners of the affected vehicles directly.

Earlier recalls and NHTSA reports indicated that the air bags in question were particularly susceptible to dangerous deployment in areas that experienced prolonged periods of high heat and humidity.

With more than 30 million recall notices issued so far in 2014 -- with General Motors and its faulty ignition switch problems leading the charge -- the year is already at a record high for automaker call-backs.

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