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Continental recalls defective airbag control units used in 5 million vehicles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Continental Automotive Systems said it supplied potentially defective airbag control units to 5 million vehicles used by Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and three other manufacturers built over a five-year period worldwide, widening an airbag safety crisis.

Continental Automotive, a unit of Germany-based Continental AG, told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that electronic systems built from 2006-10 and used in 5 million vehicles may fail and airbags may not deploy in a crash or may inadvertently deploy without warning.

Continental spokeswoman Mary Arraf said Thursday the recall involved between 1.5 million and 2 million vehicles in the U.S.

As a supplier, Continental can recall defective parts, but the automakers must conduct the actual vehicle recalls.

“All potentially affected customers were notified immediately and we are in close contact them,” a Continental spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

A complete list of nameplates included in the recall was not immediately available today. It also wasn’t clear which recalls have already been announced by the manufacturers.

This is the latest massive U.S. recall tied to airbag problems.

To date, 14 automakers have recalled about 25 million vehicles for airbag inflators made by Takata Corp. that could rupture, emitting potentially deadly metal fragments.

Honda said late Wednesday is recalling 341,000 2008-10 Accord cars to replace the control units.

Also today, Fiat Chrysler said it is recalling 112,000 vehicles for the same issue, including the 2009 Dodge Journey, 2008-09 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country and 2009 Volkswagen Routan that it had assembled for the German automaker.

FCA said it is aware of seven potentially related injuries — all minor — but no related accidents. It also has reports of as many as 25 inadvertent airbag deployments.

In documents posted Thursday with U.S. regulators, Continental said it received a control unit from Daimler in January 2008 after a vehicle owner complained the airbag warning light had illuminated. An investigation found a problem with the control unit that led to a design change in a semiconductor in 2008.

Continental said it built 3 million units from 2006 until the design change and 2 million after it that are covered by the recall. Continental said it did not receive any complaints after another change was made at the end of 2010 and completed in 2011.

NHTSA opened an investigation in August 2015 after a complaint of a crash in a 2008 Accord in which the air bags did not deploy.

In October, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz USA unit recalled 126,000 C-Class sedans from model years 2008 and 2009 and certain 2010 Mercedes Benz GLK-Class vehicles to address the issue.

Honda said it has received 1,575 warranty claims, 83 field reports and 2 confirmed injuries related to the defect. It also said there have been 74 injury allegations related to airbags that did not deploy but those aren’t confirmed.

Ryan Beene and Automotive News staff contributed to this report.

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