By Naomi Tajitsu

TOKYO (Reuters) – Honda Motor Co on Thursday said it was recalling about 668,000 vehicles in Japan to replace air bag inflators supplied by Takata Corp, as part of an expanded nationwide recall announced earlier this year.

Japan’s second-largest automaker said it had recalled models including its Fit subcompact hatchback model, and the Civic and Accord sedan models over passenger-side air bags. Vehicles produced between 2009 and 2011 were affected, it added.

A man is reflected on a window at Honda Motor's showroom in Tokyo, Japan, May 13, 2016.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
A man is reflected on a window at Honda Motor’s showroom in Tokyo, Japan, May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The latest announcement takes Honda’s global tally of recalled air bags to about 51 million, around half of the roughly 100 million slated for recall worldwide over inflators which are at risk of exploding with excessive force.

Defective air bags have been linked to at least 14 deaths and 150 injuries worldwide, and are at the centre of the auto industry’s biggest ever product recall.

Thursday’s recall comes after Japan’s transport ministry in May ordered automakers to recall an additional 7 million vehicles in Japan equipped with Takata air bag inflators which do not contain a drying agent, in phases by 2019, following an expanded recall by U.S. transport authorities.

Without a drying agent, the ammonium nitrate-based propellant used in Takata inflators has a tendency to explode violently following prolonged exposure to hot, humid conditions, spraying metal shrapnel into vehicle compartments.

Honda, once Takata’s largest customer, has said that it would stop using Takata-made inflators in its new models, and has stopped procuring replacement inflators from the company.

Battered by the recalls, Takata is looking for a financial backer to help overhaul its business and carry ballooning costs as its stock price has crumbled almost 90% since early 2014 and it faces potentially billions of dollars of liabilities.

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu and Maki Shiraki; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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