The ruptured inflator can cause metal fragments to strike the driver or passengers. Underinflated airbags can not properly protect passengers in an accident.
A driver in Australia died as a result of the faulty airbags. Another driver in Cyprus was injured because of them.
The number of affected vehicles in the United States is unknown. Many of the vehicles with the airbags were installed in the 1990s and are no longer on the road, officials said.
BMW is warning drivers of some older 3-series vehicles to stop driving them.
About 8,000 definitely have faulty inflators and should be parked, BMW said. Another 116,000 3-Series cars from the 1999 to 2001 model years can still be driven but will be inspected. BMW intends to replace faulty inflators with new ones. The company says owners will be notified when parts are available.
The recall also includes vehicles built by Audi, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi.
Which models were not immediately known. Audi was trying to determine whether any 1997 to 1999 model year A4, A6, A8 or TT vehicles were affected. Toyota and Honda were working to determine which models had the issue. Mitsubishi indicated 1998 to 2000 Montero vehicles were impacted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.