The air bags made by Japan's Takata Corp. have faulty inflators that do not route gas into the air bags. Instead, the high-pressure gas can send plastic pieces flying from the inflators into passenger compartments. Takata says no one has been hurt, but there have been six incidents of the air bags deploying improperly.
The chemicals in the canister had degraded, which led to a more explosive force, resulting in the gas expanding too quickly, says Takata. All of the inflators were made at its Monclova, Mexico plant.
The recall is so large because many automakers use common parts on multiple models.
In the United States, the vehicles involved include certain Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia, and Tundra, and Lexus SC 430 models manufactured from 2001 - 2003. More precise vehicle information is being developed, but about 510,000 vehicles may have to be inspected to locate the suspect inflators.
In the U.S., Honda will voluntarily recall approximately 426,000 model-year 2001-2003 Civic vehicles, approximately 43,000 CR-V vehicles from the 2002-2003 model years and approximately 92,000 model-year 2002 Odyssey vehicles in the United States to replace the passenger front airbag inflator.
In the U.S., approximately 480,000 Nissan-Infiniti vehicles worldwide are affected by the Takata front airbag recall. Approximately 265,367 of those vehicles are here in the U.S. market, including the U.S. model year 2001-2003: Nissan Maxima; Nissan Pathfinder; Nissan Sentra; Infiniti I35; and Infiniti QX4.
Approximately 149 Mazda vehicles in the United States are affected -- all but two being Mazda6 vehicles, the remaining being RX-8s -- with 47 confirmed to contain the defective airbag.
Worldwide, Toyota is the hardest hit. The car giant will have to inpsect or fix 1.7 million vehicles worldwide, including about 580,000 in North America, 490,000 in Europe and 320,000 in Japan. The models include the Corolla, Matrix, Sequoia, and Tundra, and the Lexus SC 430, manufactured from 2001 to 2003.
Honda is recalling 1.1 million vehicles worldwide, including about 680,000 in North America, 270,000 in Japan and 64,000 in Europe. Models include the Civic, CR-V and Odyssey from the 2001 to 2003 model years.
Nissan is recalling 480,000 vehicles worldwide, including about 265,000 in the U.S. Models include the Nissan Maxima, Pathfinder and Sentra as well as the Infiniti FX and QX4, all from the 2001-2003 model years. Recalled models in Japan include the Cube, X-Trail, Maxima and Teana.
Mazda is also recalling about 45,000 Mazda RX-8 and Mazda 6 cars, and GM is recalling about 55,000 Pontiac Vibe hatchbacks sold in the U.S. and Canada. The 2003 models are nearly identical to the Toyota Matrix and were made at a California plant that was jointly run with Toyota.
According to a Honda spokesperson, the problem stemmed from two human errors during production. A worker forgot to turn on the switch for a system weeding out defective products, and parts were improperly stored, which exposed them to humidity.
The recall is Takata's largest since 1995, when nine automakers had to repair faulty front seat belts in 9 million cars sold from 1986 through 1991.
Takata said it does not believe the recall will grow, since in 2002, its plant started using a different process to make the inflators.
The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this report.