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Toyota recalls 1.4 million cars: What's similar about Takata recall?

The carmaker announced a recall of 1.43 million vehicles Wednesday because of an issue with the airbag's inflator, with Swedish company Autoliv confirming it made the airbags.

Yuya Shino/Reuters/File
Visitors walk past a logo of Toyota Motor Corp on a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle at the company's showroom in Tokyo in August 2014. The carmaker said Wednesday that it is recalling 1.43 million vehicles due to an issue with the inflater in their airbags, while separately announcing a recall of 2.87 million cars due to a possible crack in an emissions unit.

Toyota said Wednesday that it was recalling 1.43 million vehicles worldwide because of a possible airbag defect. Separately, it also announced it was recalling 2.87 million vehicles worldwide over fuel tank issues.

The Japan-based carmaker said the airbags in question weren't made by Takata, the airbag supplier at the center of what federal regulators have called "the largest and most complex safety recall in US history." 

Toyota, the world's largest automaker, didn't initially reveal the name of the manufacturer, but the Swedish auto gear company Autoliv confirmed on Wednesday that it had made the airbag inflators involved in the recall, Reuters reports.

Autoliv told the wire service that it was aware of seven incidents where an airbag in the car's side had partially inflated, but said no injuries were reported.

Takata, whose airbags have led to recalls of more than 100 million vehicles worldwide, wasn't initially named until 2013, as scrutiny and pressure from regulators mounted, The New York Times reports.

This most recent recall, which involves Toyota's Prius and Lexus CT200h, made between 2010 and 2012, appears to share similarities with the massive Takata recalls. The company said the issues hadn't been linked to any injuries or deaths.

Toyota says its airbags' inflators, which are filled with propellant and designed to inflate the airbags instantly, may have a small crack. This fault could cause the airbags to inflate unexpectedly, causing pieces of the inflator to fly through the cabin and possibly cause injuries.

The company said the risk of errant inflation is highest when the inflators are exposed to high humidity, something that is also a factor in Takata's airbags, The New York Times reports. But Toyota said a manufacturing error was to blame rather than a design problem.

In the case of Takata, an issue with the inflators in the company's airbags can cause them to rupture violently and send shrapnel flying through a vehicle. It has been been linked to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries in the United States, according to Consumer Reports.

Toyota's second recall this week, of 2.87 million vehicles worldwide, is due to a possible fault in the vehicles' emissions control units, a mechanism that releases evaporated fuel. Toyota said cracks in this mechanism could cause small amounts of fuel to leak when drivers refill their tanks, The New York Times reports.

The company said cracks in the mechanism, known as an evaporative fuel emissions control unit, could be present in several models produced from 2006 to 2015, including the Prius, Corolla, and Auris compact hatchback, Reuters reports.

For Takata, public criticism over the recalls has been intense as the number continued to mount.

"It’s because of how long it took for everyone to realize what's going on – that's why it went from a small recall to the largest recall in American history," Mark Rosekind, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told reporters in May.

The company's obfuscation and decision not to inform regulators of tests that showed cracked inflators had further exacerbated safety concerns, he added.

On Tuesday, chief executive Shigehisa Takada, who had apologized for the defects while also defending the company's products, announced he would resign after a "new management regime" is found.

"I am not clinging to this," he told an annual shareholders meeting, Reuters reports. "My role is to make sure the company does not take a bad turn until there is passing of the baton."

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