The Department of Transportation on Wednesday announced the recall of an additional 35 million to 40 million faulty air bag inflators made by Japan's Takata Corp., an auto-parts supplier.
Already, 28.8 million Takata inflators have been recalled. In all, this massive action will add up to the largest safety recall in U.S. history.
DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the problem comes down to this: "the inflators' propensity to rupture." Those ruptures have been tied to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries in this country.
"The acceleration of this recall is based on scientific evidence and will protect all Americans from air bag inflators that may become unsafe," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.
The government says "time, environmental moisture and fluctuating high temperatures contribute to the degradation of the ammonium nitrate propellant in the inflators. Such degradation can cause the propellant to burn too quickly."
That rapid burn can rupture the inflator and spray shrapnel into drivers and passengers.
"People who receive notification that there is a remedy available for their vehicle should act immediately to have their inflator fixed," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said.
He urged vehicle owners to check SaferCar.gov for information about any open recalls. On that website, owners also can find out what to do to have safety problems fixed free of charge. The specific car and truck models included in the latest Takata recall were not immediately released.
Last year, NHTSA imposed the largest civil penalty in its history on Takata for violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. NHTSA has appointed an independent monitor to assess, track and report the company's compliance with the recall program.
Takata makes air bags, seat belts and other parts for the auto industry. Now it faces huge losses. Takata said earlier this week that it would book one-time charges totaling 20.1 billion yen, or $189 million, to cover cost of the recalls and settlements with victims.
The company has been hit with widespread criticism for moving too slowly to recognize the problem and provide authorities with complete and accurate information. Now, it will take years to replace all of the defective parts.
Many consumers have expressed frustration through social media. Rick DeGaetano, a computer consultant in Hayward, Calif., spoke by phone with NPR after he took to Facebook to vent about the potential danger — and financial harm — done by Takata.
DeGaetano said his friend's car was affected. Even aside from worrying "that you're going to get shrapnel in your face if you get in an accident," his friend also has to worry about losing money, DeGaetano said. "It hurts the resale value of your car," he said.
NPR business intern Naomi LaChance contributed to this report.