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Dec 12, 9:06 AM EST

Chrysler expands air bag recall

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DETROIT (AP) -- Chrysler is bowing to demands from U.S. safety regulators and will add about 179,000 vehicles to a recall for air bags that could explode with too much force.

The latest expansion covers the Ram pickup from the 2003 to 2005 model years, as well as the 2004 and 2005 Dodge Durango, 2005 Chrysler 300 and 2005 Dodge Magnum. It brings Chrysler into compliance with demands from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for passenger air bags.

It's part of a growing problem worldwide with air bag inflators made by Japanese auto parts supplier Takata Corp.

At first Chrysler agreed to replace passenger air bag inflators in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But under pressure from NHTSA, the company late Thursday added more states with high humidity.

The new boundaries are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and five U.S. territories.

The air bags can explode with too much force and spew shrapnel into the passenger compartment. Takata has said that long exposure to airborne humidity can cause the air bag propellant to burn too quickly. That can blow apart inflator canisters and spew plastic and metal parts into the passenger compartment.

The latest expansion brings the total number of Chrysler vehicles recalled for air bags to about 618,000. So far, 10 automakers have recalled about 11 million vehicles in the U.S. and about 18 million globally for similar problems.

Chrysler maintains that its passenger air bags are safe but says it's adding to the recall as a precaution. NHTSA demanded the expansion in a Nov. 25 letter to Chrysler.

The action announced Thursday may not get the company out of hot water with government safety regulators. Chrysler still is refusing NHTSA demands to do a national recall of Takata driver's side air bag inflators. So far Honda and Mazda have agreed to the national recall.

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