A woman arranges airbag cushions at a plant for Japanese car parts maker Takata Corp. in Sibiu, 280km (175 miles) northwest of Bucharest, in this September 4, 2006 file photo. Romania is fighting to attract firms like Takata which bring in technology, jobs and hard currency, badly needed in the poor former Soviet satellite whose entry date to the EU will be announced on September 26. Picture taken September 4, 2006. To match feature EU ROMANIA AUTOS. REUTERS/Mihai Barbu (ROMANIA) - RTR1HHU2

Washington, DC - US authorities on Monday urged owners of vehicles with potentially deadly defective Takata air bags to seek repairs as Toyota recalled about 247 000 vehicles over the parts flaw.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a bulletin to owners of 4.7 million vehicles made by Toyota and five other carmakers, highlighting an apparently higher level of danger from the faulty air bags for car owners in areas with high humidity.

The NHTSA said: “We urge owners of certain Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, and General Motors vehicles to act immediately on recall notices to replace defective Takata air bags.

“The message comes with urgency, especially for owners of vehicles affected by the regional recalls in the following areas:

Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii.”

The air bag could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially sending shrapnel into the car's occupants.

Honda has the highest number of vehicles covered by the recall at roughly 2.8 million. Toyota is second at 778 000, followed by BMW at 574 000.

IMMEDIATE ACTION

The high-profile alert came as Toyota said it was recalling Toyota Corolla, Matrix, Sequoia, Tundra and Lexus cars, SUVs and bakkies made from 2001 to 2004 to replace the air bag inflator for the front passenger seat.

Toyota expanded on an earlier airbag-related recall especially to include vehicles in high humidity areas, including southern Florida, Gulf Coast states, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, where the vehicles “appear to warrant immediate action” based on testing by Takata.

According to Toyota, Takata is still testing whether high humidity is an important factor in the airbag problem.

Toyota said it had received no reports yet of injuries or fatalities related to the airbag problem.

Still, the seriousness of the risk to occupants of the front seat was underscored in the company's details on the recall process.

If a replacement inflator part is not available when the vehicle is brought in for servicing, the dealer will temporarily disable the front passenger air bag.

In that case, the dealer will also install a warning that the front passenger seat should not be occupied until the repair has been completed.