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Takata Air Bag Sparks Fire in Japanese Nissan X-Trail

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Nissan Motor Company has reported another incident involving a defective Takata air bag.

In the past couple of years, Takata air bags have been linked with dangerous explosions that have caused serious injuries and even death. This time, it seems the air bag explosion caused a fire inside the vehicle.

Nissan Fire Blamed on Defective Takata Air Bag

According to a Nissan spokesman, the driver was operating a 2001 Nissan X-Trail in Japan when he or she was hit on the driver’s side. The air bag on the passenger side of the vehicle exploded upon impact. Some of the high-temperature shrapnel smashed the passenger-side window, and some penetrated the dashboard, causing a fire.

The driver suffered burns to the left cheek. According to Reuters, this is the first known Takata air bag explosion in Japan, though the automaker stated that nine other similar incidents had occurred in Nissan vehicles in the U.S.

So far, Nissan has recalled 4.4 million vehicles worldwide because of faulty Takata air bag inflators. The company spokesman noted that the X-Trail in this incident was on the list for an air bag recall, but that the owner was unaware of the need for repairs.

Takata Expands Recalls After Over a Year of Pressure

Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and members of Congress have pressured Takata to expand its recalls for over a year, the company did not comply until June 2015. At that time, they made a public apology, and agreed to administer repairs for vehicles in all 50 states.

This was a big change from how Takata has operated so far. After their company tests indicated that high temperatures and high humidity were factors in air bag explosions, they limited their recalls to areas like Florida, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii, where the climate is hot and humid most of the time, and where many of the air bag explosions had occurred.

Critics noted that there had been incidents in other climates as well, however, and that Takata was putting public safety at risk for failing to do more to be sure that the air bags were safe.

Recalls Proceeding Slowly

Though the NHTSA and consumer organizations have urged car owners to get their Takata air bags replaced as soon as possible, that is often easier said than done. Takata has been struggling for months to manufacture enough new inflators to meet demand.

Meanwhile, carmakers like Honda and Toyota have stepped up to fill the gap, implementing their own recalls and replacing air bags with new parts, sometimes supplied from other companies. Still, despite expansions in manufacturing of air bag inflators, experts estimate that it will be years before all Takata air bags are repaired.

There remains some concern, as well, that some of the replacement air bag inflators may have similar safety issues, since Takata continues to use the same unstable fuel—ammonium nitrate—inside some of the inflators. Fiat Chrysler has refused to use Takata air bags to make recall repairs for that reason. Congress, as well, continues to pressure the company to prove that ammonium nitrate is safe.