Think “recent major automotive recall,” and your thoughts probably turn to GM. But another recall is in the news this week—and it involves several automotive companies and a key supplier.

 

On Monday, Honda, Mazda and Nissan recalled almost three million cars with potentially explosive air bags supplied by Takata Corp., a major manufacturer of airbags, seat belts, steering wheels and other auto parts. Toyota had announced a recall of vehicles with the air bags last week. The series of recalls cover both passenger-side and driver-side air bags, which Takata, the world’s second-biggest automotive safety parts maker, manufactured in 2000-02. The potentially flawed Takata air bag inflators run a risk of exploding and shooting out shrapnel at drivers and passengers.

 

These latest recalls bring the total recall so far to about 10.5 million vehicles over the past five years, which ranks it among the five biggest recalls in the auto industry’s history.

 

But that might not be all. The tally continues to expand as Honda, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota all announced this week they are recalling more vehicles in some high humidity regions in the U.S., in what they called a “field action,” at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to replace Takata air bag inflators.

 

In this wider action, Honda said it is recalling about 2.03 million vehicles globally, and is an expansion of a recall from April 2013. Nissan said it would recall 755,000 vehicles worldwide, while Mazda said it would call back 159,807 vehicles. Both companies are also expanding April 2013 recalls.

 

Germany’s BMW Group is analyzing a limited number of its cars in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, it announced on Monday, as part of the broader investigation into the safety of Takata air bags. It’s not a safety recall, but instead is a “special technical campaign,” a BMW spokesperson said, adding there are no known safety incidents involving Takata air bags in BMW cars.

 

Takata Chief Executive Officer Shigehisa Takada and Chief Operating Officer Stefan Stocker said the company was working with safety regulators and car makers. “We will aim to further strengthen our quality control system and work united as a company to prevent problems from happening again,” they said in a statement.

 

At issue are two main problems. The first is moisture due to improper storage at the factory is believed to have degraded the inflators, causing them to potentially explode, according to an Auto News article. From 2000 to 2002, Takata plants in Washington state and Mexico used some propellant that had been exposed to moisture. In a statement issued June 20, Shigehisa Takada confirmed that the inflators may have been damaged by moisture but also cited humid weather as a possible cause.

 

“We currently believe the high levels of absolute humidity in those states [Florida, Puerto Rico] are important factors; and as a result our engineers are analyzing the impact that humidity may have on the potential for an inflator malfunction,” Takada said.

 

The second and perhaps larger issue for the supply chain is that Takata fixed the problem at the factories but faulty record-keeping hampered it from identifying batches of the inflators that may malfunction. The result is that since it appears to be unknown which vehicles might have inadvertently received faulty propellant, the auto companies are now forced to widen their recalls.

 

What are your thoughts? Do the recalls make you wonder about your suppliers’ manufacturing as well as record keeping capabilities?