By Ben Klayman
DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. safety regulators on Wednesday expanded the number of vehicles in the United States that may be affected by recalls for potentially defective Takata Corp (7312.T) air bags that could spray shrapnel at occupants.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a statement the number of vehicles from 10 automakers covered by recalls this year and in 2013 is now 7.8 million, up 28 percent from the 6.1 million announced on Tuesday. The NHTSA said the new number corrected the vehicle list provided in prior safety bulletins this week, adding some vehicles and excluding others from previous bulletins.
The NHTSA has urged owners of certain Toyota <7203.T>, Honda <7267.T>, Mazda <7261.T>, BMW (BMWG.DE), Nissan <7201.T>, Mitsubishi (7211.T), Subaru (9778.T), Chrysler (FCHA.MI), Ford (F.N) and General Motors (GM.N) vehicles to replace installed air bags as soon as possible.
In the expanded bulletin, Honda accounts for almost 5.1 million of the vehicles, Toyota 877,000 vehicles, Nissan almost 695,000 vehicles, BMW nearly 628,000 vehicles and Chrysler more than 371,000 vehicles.
Also on Wednesday, a top Toyota Motor Corp executive said in Tokyo that the Japanese automaker had no plans to abandon Takata despite the supplier's struggles.
"Toyota's not one to just dump a supplier," Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's head of Latin American operations and the former chief quality officer in North America, told reporters. "Have we ever eliminated a supplier? Yes. But it's really, really tough. We will exhaust every opportunity to help that supplier first."
NHTSA is investigating whether Takata air bag inflators made between 2000 and 2007 were improperly sealed. Bags inflating with too much force could potentially spray metal shrapnel at occupants. They have been linked to four deaths and resulted in several lawsuits.
The probe has focused on inflators recovered from cars being recalled for repairs in hot, humid places like Florida. Takata is cooperating with that investigation along with 10 automakers.
More than 16 million vehicles globally have been recalled because of defective Takata air bags since 2008.
Meanwhile, anyone visiting NHTSA's website at www.safercar.gov on Wednesday to determine whether their vehicle was part of the Takata-related recalls instead received a network error message. NHTSA officials they were trying to determine the issue and consumers can also contact dealers or go online with automakers and use their vehicle identification number to determine recall status.
(Additional reporting by Maki Shiraki in Tokyo)