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Toyota to replace Takata airbag inflators previously deemed safe

Visitors crowd Toyota Motor Corp's booth at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo, Japan, November 2, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Naomi Tajitsu

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> on Wednesday said it would replace Takata Corp (7312.T) airbag inflators in 1.6 million cars in Japan that had previously been recalled after concluding that they may still be unsafe.

The decision was prompted after a passenger in a Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> vehicle was injured this year when an airbag ruptured, despite the inflator having been checked in an earlier inspection.

Nissan this month reissued recalls for around 310,000 vehicles in Japan due to the incident.

In earlier inspections, automakers had checked the inflators using ammonium nitrate for air leaks and deemed some safe enough not to be replaced. But Toyota said in emailed comments that it would now replace all of those inflators. The replacement parts will be made by Takata.

The recall affects around 20 domestic models produced between 2004 and 2008, including the Vitz compact. The initial recalls were conducted in May and June.

Information on how this may affect recalls outside Japan was not immediately available.

U.S. regulators have linked Takata inflators using ammonium nitrate, which can explode upon deployment and spray shrapnel, to eight deaths, triggering the recall of tens of millions of vehicles worldwide.

This month, Toyota, Nissan and other major car manufacturers said they would stop using ammonium nitrate inflators manufactured by Takata in new models. Takata says it has yet to determine the root cause of the defect.

The embattled airbag maker was fined $70 million by U.S. regulators, which also ordered the company to stop using the potentially dangerous propellant.

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)