Honda US recalls 6 million vehicles with faulty Takata airbags

First death outside of the USA was in Malaysia. From the earlier estimate of 2.8 million Honda vehicles equipped with the faulty Ta...


First death outside of the USA was in Malaysia.

From the earlier estimate of 2.8 million Honda vehicles equipped with the faulty Takata airbag inflators, which when deployed causes shrapnel to discharge into the cabin, the Japanese automaker has now more than doubled the estimate to 6 million affected cars. What’s worrying is that until now, Honda admits that it has been unable to determine how many of its vehicles have been fitted with the faulty inflators, or whether they were used just for the driver’s airbag or also for the front passenger’s.

So far, the defective Takata airbags have been linked to five deaths and at least 139 injuries; four of the casualties occurred in the USA and the fifth was a woman in Malaysia. No, six deaths, for the Malaysian woman, Law, was eight and a half months pregnant and the baby who was delivered posthumously died two days later. Law was driving a 2003 Honda City with her husband in the passenger seat when the collision happened, and the malfunctioning inflator caused a 2.5cm-wide piece of metal to shoot into her neck. The husband later reported that it was more like a “bump” than a full-on collision. The car involved was not amongst the vehicles being recalled. Although the incident occurred in July, Honda only confirmed its affiliation with the faulty Takata airbag in November.

More than 16 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide - 11 million in the US - and most of them are Honda vehicles. Other carmakers affected include Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, BMW, Chrysler and Ford.

Thus far, cars had been recalled from high humidity areas, but the NHTSA has demanded that the recall be expanded nationwide, which Takata had defiantly chose to ignore. The Japanese company, which had beginnings as a textile manufacturer, replied in a letter to the safety agency that its own testing support a limited recall in high humidity areas only, which include Florida, Hawaii and along the Gulf Coast. It is believed that prolonged exposure to moisture caused the propellant in the inflator to burn faster and so explode too forcefully.

During a recent hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Hiroshi Shimizu, a senior Takata executive, said that, “Based on the data currently available, and our best engineering judgment, Takata continues to believe that the public safety is best served if the area of high absolute humidity remains the priority." A nationwide recall would mean that Takata needs to produce sufficient replacement inflators to keep up, and the company insists that the focus should remain on the high risk areas, which needs the replacement parts more urgently, lest they do not get sufficient supply. Even though Takata is ramping up production from 300,000 replacement parts per month to 450,000 per month in January, it will still take a few years to manufacture enough to match the recall numbers.

While Takata now faces possible legal action by the NHTSA to force the airbag manufacturer to comply with its demands, Honda has decided to take the recall nationwide itself and will be working with two other suppliers, Auotliv and Daicel, to meet the demand. Ford, Chrysler and Mazda have also expanded recall of its vehicles to a wider area, yet stopped short of taking it nationwide; and Toyota has expanded recall of its vehicles to China and Japan.

image: reuters.com

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