| | Total recall: trouble again for Honda, Toyota
Tokyo/Detroit: Honda Motor Co said it would recall another 440,000 cars around the world for faulty airbags as rival Toyota Motor Corp faced further probes over its largest-ever safety crisis.
Honda, Japan's No. 2 automaker, said the faulty airbags had previously been linked to one fatality and a total 11 injuries in the United States, but no accidents elsewhere.
While auto recalls are not uncommon and the size of Honda's is not massive, it comes at a sensitive time for the industry.
Automakers are struggling to draw customers back to showrooms after a brutal downturn during the financial crisis, and Toyota, the world's largest carmaker, is facing a storm of criticism over safety issues and its response to them.
In the latest of a string of embarrassing product problems for Toyota, US regulators said they are reviewing dozens of complaints about potential steering problems in newer Toyota Corollas.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is discussing the matter with Toyota to see if a formal investigation is warranted, a standard procedure when reviewing complaints.
Toyota expanded its largest ever recall on Tuesday, including more than 400,000 of its latest version Prius and other new hybrid models due to braking problems. It also recalled more than 7,300 late model Camrys in the United States for an unrelated braking problem.
That comes on top of some 8.1 million vehicles recalled for problems with slipping floormats and sticking accelerator pedals that have been linked to crashes that killed at least 19 people.
A US Congressional committee postponed a hearing scheduled for Wednesday to examine the recalls and Toyota's response due to a snowstorm expected to hit Washington.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda said on Tuesday he may travel to the United States next week to tackle criticism that his company moved too slowly on earlier recalls.
Toyota faces potential litigation over the crashes linked to the problem of unintended acceleration as well as class-action lawsuits over the brake problems with the Prius.
Honda's move comes on top of a recall first announced in November 2008 for 4,200 Accord and Civic sedans due to faulty airbag inflators, and expanded last June to cover an additional 510,000 vehicles globally.
Ongoing investigation had determined the defect was caused by insufficient stamping pressure during production of the inflator propellant and not by the propellant's excessive moisture intake as previously believed, Honda said.
The airbags are made by the US unit of Japan's Takata Corp, a Honda spokesman said. A spokesman at the supplier said the company was not aware of any defect in airbags it supplies to other automakers.
The latest recall applies to 2001 and 2002 model-year Accord, Civic, Odyssey, CR-V, Pilot and 2002 Acura TL and CL vehicles in the United States, as well as the Inspire, Saber and Lagreat in Japan. All vehicles are made at Honda's U.S. and Canadian plants.
Last month, Honda announced a global recall of about 646,000 cars for a fault with a window switch.
Some analysts said automakers regularly make recalls, and media reactions to recent cases have been somewhat overblown.
"While the way automakers handle recalls is important, I think people should be careful not to overreact to every single recall," said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Kazaka Securities.
"Rather, my concern for the auto industry is their earnings for the next financial year, given the absence of the boost they enjoyed from government incentives this year."
Honda shares eased 0.2 percent in Tokyo, while shares of Toyota, which lost about a fifth of their value since late January, edged up 0.3 percent.