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U.S. regulators probe June rupture of new VW with Takata airbag

A man walks past a screen displaying a logo of Volkswagen at an event in New Delhi, India, June 23, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. safety regulators on Monday said they have directed the U.S. units of Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and air bag maker Takata Corp (7312.T) to provide information on the June rupture of a side air bag in a 2015 model VW Tiguan.

The late-model Tiguan does not fit the pattern of more than 17 million older-model vehicles with potentially defective Takata front air bags that have been recalled. All of the recalled vehicles are at least five years old and most were made from 2000 to 2007.

VW is not among the 11 automakers that have recalled vehicles with Takata air bags.

The cause of the June 7 air bag rupture is not known, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The orders, sent Aug. 13 to VW and Takata, seek more information in part to help learn why a new vehicle's air bag ruptured, which does not fit the previous pattern.

Eight people have been killed in accidents involving front air bags supplied by Takata. The air bags can explode with too much force, sending shrapnel into the vehicle.

A Takata spokesman, Jared Levy, said the company is investigating the incident and cooperating with NHTSA. "We believe it is unrelated to the previous recalls, which the extensive data suggests were a result of aging and long-term exposure to heat and high humidity."

The driver of the Tiguan involved in a June 7 incident in Missouri did not report any injuries after the air bag ruptured when the vehicle struck a deer, VW spokesman Mark Gillies said.

VW is not aware of any other incidents of air bag ruptures in its vehicles with Takata air bags, Gillies said.

NHTSA asked VW for a list of all models that have air bags with ammonium nitrate, from any auto supplier. Gillies said he did not know how many models VW has produced that have Takata air bags and/or have air bags that use ammonium nitrate.

NHTSA ordered Takata to identify all air bags made with inflators containing ammonium nitrate.

Industry analysts have said ammonium nitrate, used by Takata as an air bag propellant, is more volatile than materials used by some of its rivals and can become very combustible when exposed to moisture.

VW informed NHTSA of the Missouri incident on July 15.

The orders to VW and Takata were reported earlier Monday by the Detroit News.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)