Public prosecutors in the United States are targeting Japanese automotive parts supplier Takata Corp, which is suspected to have misled US regulators regarding its airbags. The company’s defective safety components have been a centre of series of massive worldwide recalls over the past few years, and Takata has been accused of hiding the true number of cars affected.

These recalls are all related to a single part – the passenger airbag inflator, which has been improperly manufactured. In a crash, the inflator could rupture, which, in extreme cases, can even cause metal shards from the airbag casing to be sprayed at the occupants, potentially maiming or killing them.

The ongoing saga reached new heights this month after it emerged that Hien Tran from Orlando, Florida was killed when the airbag in her Honda Accord exploded in an accident, sending shrapnel into her neck. Tran is at least the third person to have died from the defective airbag inflator implicated in the recalls, which has also caused several injuries.

Following the incident, Toyota expanded its recall on Monday to include 247,000 units of the Corolla, Matrix, Tundra and Sequoia as well as the Lexus SC in humid regions in the US, while the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued an urgent alert for the 7.8 million owners of cars involved in the recalls in the US, urging them to get their cars fixed immediately. In all, around 14 million cars have been recalled worldwide so far by Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, BMW, Chrysler and General Motors.

Closer to home, UMW Toyota has recalled 18,700 units of the 2000-2003 Camry and Corolla Altis, Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) recalled four units of the CBU first-generation Nissan X-Trail, while Honda Malaysia recalled the 2001-2003 Stream, 2002-2003 Jazz, 2003 City and 2003 Accord.

If you own any of the cars affected, it is imperative to send them in to be repaired as soon as possible, and to stay away from the front passenger seat until the issue has been resolved.