Nissan is voluntarily recalling 204,361 2007-2008 model year Altima, Altima coupe, 350Z, Murano, Rogue and Infiniti G35 sedan, G37 coupe and EX35 passenger vehicles equipped with Continental Automotive Systems' occupant classification system (OCS) control units because a possible component fault may result in the passenger airbag not being triggered in a crash.

"A varistor in the OCS control unit located in the passenger seat cushion may have been manufactured out of specification. under certain conditions, this could cause an interruption of signal between the ocs and the air bag control unit (ACU)," the NHTSA said on its website.

"This could result in the passenger air bag being suppressed which could fail to provide adequate protection in the event of a crash."

NHTSA said dealers would test the signal between the two systems using a special tool to check that it is functioning as designed and, if necessary, the seat cushion would be replaced.

The recall is expected to begin around 3 November.

Nissan told Reuters it began to investigate the issue in November 2007 after receiving several warranty reports of airbag warning lamps flashing. In late September, the automaker decided a safety-related defect existed and it should conduct a recall.

Nissan believes less than 1% of the vehicles actually contain the defect, the news agency added.