Daimler is the latest automaker to be stung by a new round of Takata airbag recalls, the German maker announcing today it will replace faulty inflator modules in more than 840,000 Mercedes-Benz cars and Daimler vans sold in the U.S.
The announcement comes less than a week after Honda announced it would recall more than 2.2 million vehicles due to the Takata airbag problem. More service actions related to the ongoing problem are expected, according to industry observers.
The Takata airbag problem has become the biggest safety issue in automotive history, so far impacting at least 22 million vehicles sold in the U.S., with millions more vehicles overseas also being subject to repairs.
Daimler has not yet revealed which specific models will be covered by the latest recall, but it today advised the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the order will cover 705,000 Mercedes cars and another 136,000 vans sold under the Daimler name in the U.S.
The German automaker also issued a statement noting that it expects what it describes as a “precautionary recall” to result in a 340 million euro, or $384 million, hit to its bottom line. The charge will be reflected in 2015 earnings, reducing the final net profit for the year to 8.7 billion euros, or $9.8 billion.
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There is a strong likelihood that, based on comments made by NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in January, still more recalls involving Takata airbags will be announced in the coming weeks or months.
So far, at least 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to Takata airbags that can over-inflate during a crash, sending metal and plastic shrapnel spewing into the passenger compartment.
The exact source of the problem isn’t clear. Initially, Takata suggested a manufacturing defect made the inflators prone to malfunctioning when vehicles were operated in areas of high humidity, such as Southern Florida or Puerto Rico. But that explanation has largely been discounted as reports of malfunctions and several deaths have occurred in less humid regions.
(New safety tech shown to reduce rear-end crashes by up to 40%. Click Here for details.)
The focus has now shifted to the chemicals Takata used for its inflators. Ammonium nitrate has been shown to potentially break down over time, leaving the bags more likely to malfunction.
A total of 14 different automakers have so far been stung by the Takata airbag problem. The Japanese supplier itself has lost a number of key clients, including both Toyota and Honda. Honda has had the largest number of airbag recalls – and the majority of the airbag-related fatalities have occurred in its vehicles.
At the same time the Japanese maker announced the recall of 2.23 million Honda and Acura models equipped with Takata airbags it also launched a separate recall involving about 341,000 Accord sedans due to a malfunctioning airbag controller provided by German supplier Continental.
(To see more about the “historic” safety consortium aimed at rushing new safety technology to market, Click Here.)
That problem can potentially result in bags failing to fire in a crash or, in some situations, deploying while the vehicle is being driven. NHTSA estimates as many as 5 million vehicles could be recalled for the problem which itself will impact seven other automakers, including Daimler, Fiat Chrysler, Mazda, Volkswagen and Volvo Trucks. Kia, the seventh maker that purchased the control modules from Continental, did not use the devices in vehicles sold in the U.S.