Takata has until December 2 to respond to the formal demand from federal safety regulators.
"NHTSA is issuing this recall request letter to notify you that the agency has tentatively concluded that a defect related to motor vehicle safety exists on a national basis in the subject driver's side airbag inflators, and to demand that Takata issue a Part 573 safety recall report addressing that defect," wrote Frank S. Borris II, director of NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation in a letter to Kazuo Higuchi, a Takata senior vice president.
If the company does not issue a recall, NHTSA may begin civil proceedings against the company that could lead to fines of up to $7,000 a day per vehicle.
Takata had no immediate comment on the action, according to media reports.
The defective airbags have been linked to five deaths and dozens of injuries. The defective airbags may explode and shoot metal fragments at vehicle occupants, causing serious injury or death. The airbag inflators may malfunction if exposed to consistently high humidity.
On November 18, NHTSA called for a national recall of vehicles with certain driver-side airbags made by Takata. Wednesday's action is a formal demand.
Federal safety regulators said the November 18 decision was based "on the agency's evaluation of a recent driver's side airbag failure in a vehicle outside the current regional recall area and its relationship to five previous driver's side airbag ruptures, all of which are covered by existing regional recalls."
NHTSA's Wednesday letter said Takata "did not agree with NHTSA's basis for a nationwide recall of driver's side airbags" and that "Takata has not provided any new information to support its position that a regional recall is appropriate, nor has Takata provided any explanation for driver side airbag ruptures that have occurred outside the areas of high absolute humidity."
Edmunds says: The pressure continues to build for Takata to take this recall nationwide.