Takata Says 34M Vehicles Have Defective Airbags, Doubling Recalls

Japanese auto supplier Takata has acknowledged that airbag inflators used in nearly 34 million U.S. vehicles are defective, setting up a massive recall that covers most major automakers.

The decision will double the number of recalled vehicles to a current estimate of 33.8 million, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday. That would surpass Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) recall of 31 million Tylenol bottles in 1982, the largest U.S. recall ever.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with NHTSA, which presents a clear path forward to advancing safety and restoring the trust of automakers and the driving public,” Takata Chairman and CEO Shigehisa Takada said in a statement.

Ten automakers already have recalled roughly 17 million U.S. cars and trucks since 2008, saying Takata-made inflators could cause airbags to explode. Globally, 36 million vehicles have been recalled.

Takata had pushed back against calls to issue its own declaration. Initially, Takata said its inflators were only at risk in hot, humid areas.

But automakers including Honda (NYSE:HMC), which accounts for a large portion of the affected vehicles in the U.S., chose to expand its recall nationwide late in December.

Airbag recalls also were announced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), BMW, Subaru, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota (NYSE:TM). Last year, the manufacturers formed a joint effort to investigate the flawed Takata airbags.

Car companies have linked faulty Takata airbags to six deaths and more than 100 injuries.

“The Department of Transportation is taking the proactive steps necessary to ensure that defective inflators are replaced with safe ones as quickly as possible, and that the highest risks are addressed first,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

The repair process will prioritize areas of high humidity. NHTSA said consumers can check for vehicle recalls on the agency’s website.