U.S. to Recall Millions of Cars to Fix Seat Belts : Autos: Japanese-made buckles may fail to latch or unlatch. Action would be one of largest ever.

From Associated Press

The safety arm of the U.S. Transportation Department plans early this week to announce the recall of Japanese-made seat belts on millions of cars sold from 1986 through ’91 because of concerns that the buckles sometimes fail to latch or unlatch, government sources confirmed Sunday.

Eight Japanese car companies and three U.S. auto makers have 8.77 million vehicles with the Takata Inc. seat belts for those years, but government sources told Associated Press that not all the companies had yet signed on to a final agreement.

The Transportation Department and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had tentatively set a press conference for Tuesday to announce the safety recall, which would be one of the largest in history.


The companies that used the belts are American Honda Motor Inc., Nissan North America Inc., Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc., Mazda Motor of America Inc., American Suzuki Motor Corp., Isuzu Motors America Inc., Subaru of America Inc., Daihatsu Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Chrysler Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

The Detroit News reported in Sunday’s editions that eight companies have already agreed to the recall and that the other three were expected to agree today. The News did not identify which companies had not yet agreed.

There were at least 63 injuries--but no deaths--reported from accidents in which the belts were used, according to NHTSA documents.

There have been more than 700 complaints that the Takata belts jammed or failed to lock or unlock. Some consumers indicated that the orange plastic piece of the belt button chipped off and fell into the buckle, jamming it.

The list includes some of the companies’ most popular makes, including Honda Civics, Accords and Acuras; Nissan Infinitis; Mitsubishi Eclipses, and Mazda MX-6s and 323s.

The agency has been investigating the belts since October. Auto makers supplied by Takata have reported thousands of warranty claims for seat belt repairs or replacements. Takata has said the buckle’s release button has since been strengthened by changing the materials used and the button’s design.

NHTSA, the companies and Takata have declined to discuss the cost of a recall. The Detroit News has estimated it could exceed $1 billion.

The companies and Takata also have declined to discuss who would pay for the replacements.

According to the complaint information filed by customers, replacement of the belt assembly has ranged from less than $100 to hundreds of dollars.

Telephones went unanswered Sunday at the North American headquarters of Takata in Auburn Hills, Mich., and at Honda and most other car companies. Nissan, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler spokespersons declined Sunday to discuss specifics of any negotiations with NHTSA.

NHTSA is looking into the composition of the buckle plastic.


The Makes in Question

Here are the makes of the 11 companies with Takata Inc. seat belts made from 1986 through 1991:

HONDA: 3.7 million vehicles

1986-1991 Accord

1986-1991 Civic

1986-1987, 1989-1991 Civic CRX

1986-1991 Acura Legend

1986-1991 Acura Integra

1991 Acura NSX Coupe


NISSAN: 2.01 million vehicles

1990-1991 Infiniti Q45, M30

1987-1988 Nissan 200SX

989-1991 Nissan 240SX

1988-1989 Pathfinder

1988-1991 Truck D21

1987-1990 Van C22

1987-1991 Sentra


MITSUBISHI: 699,181 vehicles.

1986-1989 Starion

1986-1988 Cordia

1986-1987, 1989 Galant

1988-1990 Sigma

1986-1991 Mirage

1990-1991 Eclipse

1991 3000GT

1986-1991 Montero

1987-1990 van/wagon

1986-1991 pickup


MAZDA: 360,433 vehicles

1988-1989 323 and 323 wagon

1988-1989 MX-6

1988-1991 929

1989-1991 MPV minivan


SUZUKI: 115,874 vehicles

1989-1991 Swift

1988-1991 Samurai

1989-1991 Sidekick


SUBARU: 101,005 vehicles

1987-1991 Justy

1988-1990 Loyale


ISUZU: 89,902

1990-1991 Impulse

1990-1991 Pickup

1991 Rodeo

1991 Stylus


DAIHATSU: 7,514 vehicles

1990-1991 Rocky


CHRYSLER: 951,040

1986-1989 Conquest

1986-1991 Colt

1989-1991 Summit

1990-1991 Laser/Talon

1991 Stealth

1987-1989 Raider

1986-1991 Ram/Ram 50


GENERAL MOTORS: 466,902 vehicles

1990-1991 Geo Storm

1989-1991 Geo Tracker

1989-1991 Geo Metro


FORD: 265,000 vehicles

1988-1991 Festiva

Note: Some models of vehicles with the Takata belts are not specified. Check with local dealers whether 3-door or 5-door models have been ruled out. Source: Associated Press