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Toyota finds new air bag issue, recalls Vitz, Yaris, RAV4

Mari Yamaguchi Associated Press

TOKYO – Toyota Motor Corp. recalled more than 40,000 vehicles in Japan on Thursday as part of a worldwide scare over defective air bags and is investigating a new type of air bag problem that could lead to further recalls.

Toyota’s recall for driver-side air bags is the latest in the widening safety problems related to Takata Corp. air bags. Toyota’s recall involves three models: Vitz, Yaris and RAV4 vehicles made in 2002 and 2003.

Daihatsu Motor Co. said it’s also recalling more than 27,000 Mira compact models in Japan for the same air bag problem linked to an inflator.

Takata air bags can inflate with excessive force, sending metal shrapnel toward the driver and passengers.

Toyota also is investigating a new type of air bag problem in a 2003 vehicle that could lead to further recalls. In that case, revealed Wednesday by the transport ministry, the air bag ruptured when it was launched while the vehicle was being scrapped earlier this month.

The rupture occurred on the passenger side of the now discontinued Will Cypha, company spokeswoman Kayo Doi said.

That air bag problem is not part of the ongoing recalls, and Toyota will add the new case to the company’s investigation, she said.

There were broken metal fragments found but nobody was injured at the site, according to Masato Sahashi, a ministry official in charge of recalls. He said the cause of the rupture is still under investigation.

Transport Minister Akihiro Ohta earlier this week ordered Japanese automakers to expedite their current recalls.

The air bag problems have been blamed for at least six deaths and dozens of injuries.

Millions of cars have been recalled worldwide. About 2.61 million have been recalled in Japan so far, but only about half of them had been taken care of. There were four cases of ruptures in Japan but none involved injuries.

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