Air Bag Exploding Like Gunshot Has Japan Weighing Recalls

December 02, 2014

Japan’s investigation into dangerous air bags is leading to a remote scrapyard in the central Gifu prefecture, where the explosion of a car model not included in current recalls suggests automakers may have to yet again expand their safety campaigns.

In the latest incident, an air bag from Takata Corp. (7312), the Tokyo-based company at the center of the crisis, deployed with such force that it shattered the windshield and sprayed metal shards on the floor of the Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) subcompact, said Akihiro Wakayama, a manager at the Chikamatsu Shokai Co. scrapyard. The explosion last month sounded “like a gunshot” and was “two to three times” louder than normal, he said.

Japan’s transport ministry is investigating the cause of the malfunction to determine whether more vehicles need to be recalled. The 2003 Toyota WiLL Cypha wasn’t among the 2.6 million subject to safety campaigns in Japan.

“I was surprised once again because the unusual explosion occurred in a vehicle that we were told to be safe,” Wakayama, 43, said in an interview in the city of Seki in central Japan. “That made me think we really don’t know what we can trust to do our work safely.”

The air bag in the Toyota was the seventh to have ruptured at scrapyards in Japan since June 2012, where 350,000 of the devices made by Takata were evaluated and recycled every year, according to transport ministry official Masato Sahashi. The previous six ruptures -- four in Honda Motor Co. (7267)’s Fit and two in Toyota’s Corolla -- were reported around July 2012 and led to an additional 3 million vehicles being recalled globally.

(Bloomberg News)