Continental told U.S. regulators that it is ramping up production and will have enough modules to repair the 2 million vehicles in the U.S. sometime this fall.
Kapoor said the redesigned component has been problem-free. "We have not seen any claims" after the component was redesigned in 2010, he said. "Our contention is that the problem has been fixed."
The corrosion defect first surfaced on Jan. 30, 2008, when Daimler AG returned an airbag control unit that had been removed from a vehicle whose owner had reported an illuminated warning light.
Continental asked the computer chip's supplier -- Atmel Corp. of San Jose, Calif. -- to investigate. Atmel concluded that corrosion in a semiconductor could interrupt electrical signals, causing airbags to deploy unexpectedly or not at all.
The two companies duly informed their customers, Kapoor said, and Continental and Atmel agreed on a two-stage fix. In 2008, Atmel revised its manufacturing to reduce the likelihood of corrosion. That mitigated the problem but didn't solve it.
The second stage came in 2010, when Atmel redesigned the component to eliminate any chance of corrosion. That turned out to be effective, Kapoor said.
But that wasn't the end of it. In early 2011, Continental learned that airbags had inadvertently deployed in two vehicles, a Mercedes and a Chrysler, and concluded that corrosion was the cause. Two years later, Daimler began a service campaign outside the U.S. to replace the defective control units.
The issue resurfaced in April 2015, when Honda asked Continental to analyze a control unit from a 2008 Accord that had been involved in an accident. Three months later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Continental to analyze a module from another Accord.
Atmel identified the defects in both modules, and in January Honda determined that some of its Accord models had a safety defect. Continental duly informed NHTSA and launched the recall.
Why did it take four years to announce the recall? Continental kept its customers informed about its analysis of the control module, said a company attorney who asked not to be named. It was up to the automakers to decide whether the flaw constituted a safety defect.
When two automakers made that call -- in this case, Honda and Mercedes -- Continental was obligated to send a defect report to NHTSA, the attorney said.
NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge declined to comment on the timing of Continental's recall.
Ryan Beene contributed to this report.