Takata said in a statement it had agreed to initiate future expanded recalls covering all non-desiccated frontal airbag inflators containing phase-stabilised ammonium nitrate (PSAN) in the US not covered by previous recalls. The estimated tally is 35m-40m.

The details were set out in an amendment to the 3 November, 2015 consent order with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Takata is not aware of any ruptures, in the field or in testing, in the inflator products in vehicles that would be covered by this new order, nor is Takata aware of any new data or scientific analysis that suggests any substantial risk with respect to such vehicles. Nonetheless, the company has agreed to accept and support the expanded recalls respecting Takata’s and NHTSA’s shared interest towards future safety and restoring public confidence. All vehicles in which field or testing ruptures have occurred are already subject to previous recalls in the US,” the supplier said.

Takata said research and analysis by several independent engineering organisations hds supported its own previously reported findings that certain inflator ruptures are caused by a combination of long-term exposure to high heat, absolute humidity and temperature cycling. With these expanded recalls, all non-desiccated frontal inflators will be under recall in the US. The vast majority of the frontal inflators Takata produces today contain desiccant, a drying agent that acts as a mitigant against these environmental effects. Manufacturing variability may also pay a role in the inflator failures, and certain vehicle models have been shown to have a much higher incident rate than others.

Shigehisa Takada, chairman and CEO of Takata, said, “This agreement with NHTSA is consistent with our desire to work with regulators and our automaker customers to develop long-term, orderly solutions to these important safety issues, and we are gratified that the NHTSA administrator has recognised the company’s cooperation. Our actions, including the expansion of product recalls to cover all non-desiccated frontal inflator models, demonstrate our total commitment to safety and our intention to be part of the solution and to restore the confidence of the driving public.”

Takada continued: “We will continue to dedicate significant resources to maximise recall completion rates, including through our ‘get the word out’ campaign and by working closely with NHTSA and our automaker customers on new and innovative solutions to reach consumers. Takata is committed to supporting all actions that advance vehicle safety.”

Based on the terms of the consent order amendment, Takata will be filing defect information reports (DIRs) for all non-desiccated frontal airbag inflators not currently under recall in five stages, according to model years and the geographic regions where the vehicles are registered, focusing first on older vehicles in regions of high heat and absolute humidity. All non-desiccated frontal passenger PSAN inflators will be under recall by 31 December, 2019.

Takata estimated there would be approximately 35-40m airbag inflators covered by these new DIRs, primarily passenger-side inflators. Almost all driver-side non-desiccated frontal airbag inflators are already under recall. The first DIR, which will be filed on 16 May, 2016, will cover approximately 14m inflators. The expanded recalls also include certain non-desiccated frontal airbag inflators which have been provided as replacement parts in the past.

Takata said it had been in close consultation with NHTSA regarding the severe challenges it will face in supplying replacement parts for the expanded recalls. “It has been determined that such issues will be further discussed and resolved through the coordinated remedy programme together with NHTSA and the vehicle manufacturers. Takata will continue to offer its best effort and cooperation towards the smooth implementation of the expanded recalls.”

To date, Takata has produced more than 14m airbag replacement kits in North America alone, significantly more than the approximately 8m inflators that have been returned to the supplier as part of current US safety campaigns.

“Takata strongly urges all consumers to check NHTSA’S www.safercar.gov website regularly and contact their dealers immediately if their vehicle is subject to a recall,” the statement concluded.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said: “The scope of the recall far exceeds any previous automotive defect and likely will take years to fully address. Affected consumers can expect a wait time from a few months to a few years, a troubling timeframe given the potentially deadly nature of these airbags. It’s hard to imagine Takata surviving this recall, but if the company fails it will only lengthen the time it takes to resolve this issue.”