The recall of exploding Takata air bags may grow even larger.

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WASHINGTON — The recall of exploding Takata air bags, one of the largest and most complex auto recalls in the nation’s history, may grow even larger.

On Thursday, officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the top federal auto-safety regulator, said it had expanded its investigation of the defect beyond the air bags situated in front of the driver and front-seat passenger to include side air bags and was also examining all model years, not just older inflaters. If these are determined to be defective, the regulator said, the already spiraling recall may need to be widened to include more vehicles.

More than 19 million cars made by 12 automakers have already been recalled in the United States to fix dangerous air bags that can rupture violently and spew metal fragments at vehicle occupants. Millions more have been recalled abroad. Volkswagen and General Motors recently recalled Takata inflators in seat-mounted side air bags because of a chance they could rupture.

The ruptures have been linked to eight deaths and dozens of injuries.

About 23.4 million Takata driver and passenger air-bag inflators have been recalled, but as of Oct. 9, only 22.5 percent of the recalled inflators had been replaced nationwide.

Officials said it’s difficult to estimate how long it will take to fix all of the cars because of the size and complexity of the recall. NHTSA is considering taking over management of the recalls to speed up the pace of repairs.

The progress is “simply not good enough to address the risk these vehicles pose to the driving public,” said Jennifer Timian, head of NHTSA’s recall-management division.

“NHTSA is considering a number of steps under the authority Congress has given us that could accelerate repairs and ensure that the inflators that present the greatest safety risk get replaced first,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said.

The agency plans to make a decision on management of the recalls by Thanksgiving.