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Air Bag Recall Hits 3.3 Million Vehicles

Detroit — Six automakers, including Toyota, Honda and Nissan, are recalling nearly 3.4 million older-model vehicles worldwide because of defective air bags that can send shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment.

The recall mainly affects cars sold by Japanese automakers in North America, Europe and Japan. A small number of cars made by Germany’s BMW AG and General Motors Co. and also involved.

The front passenger air bags all were made by the same parts supplier, Japan’s Takata Corp. They have faulty inflator mechanisms that don’t route gas into the air bags. Instead, the high-pressure gas can launch plastic and metal parts from the air bags into the cars’ passenger areas. Takata says no one has been hurt, but there have been six incidents of the air bags deploying improperly on roadways.

The recall, announced yesterday in Japan, is so large because many automakers use common parts on multiple models to cut costs and simplify manufacturing. This approach was pioneered by Japanese automakers.

The recall will bring a great deal of unwelcome publicity for automakers, especially Toyota Motor Corp., said IHS Automotive analyst Paul Newton. The world’s top-selling car company is trying to rebuild a reputation for quality that was hurt by previous big recalls.

The latest recall is the fourth for Toyota since October that involves more than one million vehicles, Newton wrote in an email. And the company endured a series of huge recalls in 2009 and 2010 for faulty braking, sticky gas pedals and defective floor mats.