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Toyota, Honda, Nissan global air bag recall

DETROIT -- Six automakers, including Toyota, Honda and Nissan, are recalling nearly 3.4 million older-model vehicles worldwide because of defective air bags that can send shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment.

The recall could affect more than 30,000 cars on the road on Long Island.

The front passenger air bags all were made by the same parts supplier, Japan's Takata Corp. They have faulty inflater mechanisms that don't route gas into the air bags. Instead, the high-pressure gas can launch plastic and metal parts from the air bags into the cars' passenger areas. Takata says no one has been hurt, but there have been six incidents of the air bags deploying improperly on roadways.

The recall, announced Thursday, is so large because many automakers use common parts on multiple models to cut costs and simplify manufacturing. Most of the affected vehicles were manufactured from 2001 to 2003.

The recall brings unwelcome publicity for automakers, especially Toyota Motor Corp., said IHS Automotive analyst Paul Newton. The latest recall is the fourth for Toyota since October that involves more than one million vehicles, he said.

Toyota models affected include the Corolla, Matrix hatchback, Sequoia SUV and Tundra pickup, as well as the Lexus SC 430 sports car. Other models affected include the Honda Civic, CR-V small SUV and Odyssey minivan; Nissan Maxima midsize sedan, Pathfinder SUV, Sentra, Infiniti FX crossover and QX4 SUV; Mazda RX-8 and Mazda 6; and GM Pontiac Vibe hatchbacks.

An analysis done two years ago for Newsday by auto data provider R.L. Polk & Co. found more than 9,247 Corollas for model years 2001, 2002 and 2003 registered on Long Island. It also found 10,780 Civics from those three model years, 5,428 Maximas and 4,529 Sentras.

Automakers said they would inspect the air bag inflaters and replace them if necessary at no cost to owners. A small number of cars made by Germany's BMW AG are also involved.

Alby Berman, spokesman for Takata in North America, acknowledged that the company's image may be hurt. But he said Takata has produced millions of reliable air bags and should have enough capital with manufacturers to withstand the publicity.

With Tom Incantalupo

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