Japan sets up task force to deal with air bag recalls

TOKYO - Japan's transport ministry last week set up a special task force to deal with air bag-related recalls and has urged automakers to speed up replacements of potentially defective Takata-made air bag inflators, Transport Minister Akihiro Ohta said on Tuesday.

The transport ministry said about 1.37 million vehicles had been brought in to domestic dealers as of the end of September, out of the 2.37 million vehicles subject to recalls related to Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) in Japan.

At a US Senate hearing last week, Takata and Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) executives apologised to victims that have been injured and killed by defective air bags that can explode with too much force and spray shrapnel in cars. At least five deaths have been linked to Takata's troubled air bags and all have been on Honda vehicles.

Around 16 million cars with Takata air bags have been recalled worldwide so far, with more than 10 million of those in the United States. The auto parts maker is facing a criminal investigation into the scandal, more than 20 class actions and a probe by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

(In this story ministry corrects figures and time frame for vehicles recalled to 1.37 million out of 2.37 at end-September, not 1.54 million out of 2.54 million so far)