Nine American and Japanese carmakers "voluntarily recalled" almost 8.4 million vehicles sold from late 1985 to 1991 because of potentially defective seatbelts. They're made by Takata Corp., a Japanese manufacturer. A spokesman for Takata's North American subsidiary says the manufacturer is cooperating with NHTSA's investigation, but downplays the significance of the problem because no deaths have been reported. NHTSA alleges that plastic material in the buckle deteriorates over time and that small plastic chips can cause the buckle to not latch properly. Displaying yet again their uncanny knack for insulting the American public, Japanese government officials fault dirty American cars. They say any latching problems are likely due to soft drinks, pieces of food and animal hair gumming up the works.