Air bag manufacturer Takata has agreed to declare 33.8 million of its inflator mechanisms defective on Tuesday, a move that will lead to the largest-ever U.S. auto recall.
The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which reached an agreement with Takata after sparring with the company for the past year over the size of the recalls and the cause of the problem with millions of air bags. It will be the largest recall in the agency's history.
Faulty air bags which can explode with too much force and send shards of metal into passengers are linked to at least six deaths and more than 100 injuries.
"Takata has agreed to confirm that Takata airbag inflators are defective," said Anthony Foxx, the U.S. transportation secretary. "It is fair to say this is the most complex consumer recall in U.S. history."
Ten automakers, including Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., have recalled 17 million vehicles in the U.S. and more than 36 million worldwide because of the problem. Those numbers will grow by millions because of the agreement, but it's unclear which manufacturers will be most affected by the expanded recalls.
"We are pleased to have reached this agreement with NHTSA, which presents a clear path forward to advancing safety and restoring the trust of automakers and the driving public," said Takata's Chairman & CEO Shigehisa Takada in a statement.
"We have worked extensively with NHTSA and our automaker customers over the past year to collect and analyze a multitude of testing data in an effort to support actions that work for all parties and, most importantly, advance driver safety."
Takata has found it difficult to keep up with the demand for replacement air bag kits for the affected vehicles despite expanding production capacity. The company's competitors have been enlisted to help with the backlog, but even with the additional help, it has been estimated it would take more than two years to get the repairs completed.