In a case that echoes the Takata airbag recalls, automakers including Honda and Fiat Chrysler will recall about five million vehicles worldwide to fix a defect in an airbag component known for years but left unaddressed.
Continental Automotive Systems, the German supplier that manufactures electronic components that control car airbags, has been aware of a defect in some units since January 2008, according to a filing with federal safety regulators made public on Thursday.
Semiconductors inside the unit could corrode, causing the airbags to deploy inadvertently or fail to deploy at all, Continental said.
Once Continental knew of the problem, it informed automakers, said Mary Arraf, a spokeswoman for the supplier. She said it was up to carmakers to issue a recall.
Continental then quietly fixed the problem, adopting remedies by March 2008. It did not alert regulators of the defect at the time.
Automakers have linked at least nine injuries to the defect.
Under federal law, once a manufacturer is aware of a safety problem, it must, within five business days, inform regulators of its plans for a recall or face civil penalties.
Mazda and Volvo Trucks may also carry the defective control unit, but have not yet issued recalls. Mazda said it was investigating. Volvo Trucks could not immediately be reached for comment. The N.H.T.S.A did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The manufacturers’ handling of the defect follows a pattern of delays within the auto industry in disclosing and addressing safety defects, said Byron Bloch, an independent auto safety expert based in Potomac, Md.