Source: New York Times / February 3, 2016
In the latest sign that automakers are still struggling to understand the scope of the Takata airbag crisis, Honda Motor said on Wednesday that it would expand its recall by more than a third in North America.
The latest action, for 2.23 million vehicles in the United States, reveals just how much Honda, a longtime partner of Takata and the automaker most affected by the defective airbags, continues to be haunted by them. Now, Honda alone has recalled as many as 8.51 million Honda and Acura vehicles in the United States — a third of the recall’s overall total.
The newly recalled vehicles are part of a broader announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month that five million more vehicles with the defective airbags would have to be recalled. At the time it did not have a breakdown of manufacturers.
The airbags can rupture when they deploy, sending debris into the car’s cabin. At least 10 deaths, including nine in the United States, and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the defect. Nine of the deaths were in vehicles made by Honda.
When a car is recalled, it receives a new inflater, a metal casing containing the explosives that help inflate the airbag. The explosives, which contain a volatile compound called ammonium nitrate, can break down over time or when exposed to moisture, and may pose a danger.
Honda and Takata have been aware of the defect since at least 2004, when an airbag ruptured in a 2002 Honda Accord.
At the time, the manufacturers deemed the rupture an anomaly and did not alert safety regulators. It took Honda four more years to issue the first recall by an automaker over the defect, in 2008, and only for 4,000 vehicles.
But since then, the problem has snowballed.
Fourteen automakers have recalled about 28 million inflaters in 24 million vehicles. (In some cars, airbags on both the driver and passenger side have been recalled.)
But the problem is potentially more widespread. Takata has sold as many as 54 million inflaters since 2000 that contain ammonium nitrate, according to an estimate by Valient Market Research and provided to The New York Times. That leaves tens of millions of cars with potentially problematic inflaters on the road that have not been fixed, or in some cases, have not even been recalled.
The recent death of a South Carolina man highlighted the risks posed by cars that contain Takata airbags but have not been recalled. Joel Knight was killed after the airbag in his 2006 Ford Ranger exploded after an accident, sending metal fragments into his throat.
His airbag had not been recalled. Ford has since recalled the 2006 Ranger.
Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, confirmed on Wednesday that the agency had received a recall filing from Honda. The filing will be posted on the agency’s website,safercar.gov, as early as Thursday morning, he said. Honda’s expansion of its recall was first reported by Automotive News.
The safety agency announced a significant expansion of the recalls last week, extending it to two manufacturers, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, that had not previously been affected.
That came after N.H.T.S.A. in November imposed a $70 million penalty on Takata, a fine that could increase to $130 million if Takata does not meet terms of an agreement with the agency. It also noted that Takata had produced testing reports that contained selective or inaccurate data.
The safety agency has given Takata up to three years to prove that the ammonium nitrate inflaters are safe, or face a possible recall of all inflaters in cars still on the road.
Honda has said that no new Honda or Acura models under development would be equipped with front driver or passenger Takata airbag inflaters. Takata continues to supply Honda with other safety equipment, like seatbelts.
According to Honda, the expanded recall affects driver-side airbags in the 2007-11 Honda CR-V crossover, 2011-15 CR-Z coupe, 2009-14 Fit subcompact, 2007-14 Ridgeline sport utility truck, 2010-14 Honda Insight hybrid and 2010-14 FCXClarity hydrogen fuel-cell models. The recall also affects several Acura luxury models: the 2005-12 Acura RL, 2007-16 RDX, 2009-14 TL, 2010-13 ZDX and 2013-16 ILX.
Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida and the ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, denounced what he called “the never-ending flow of piecemeal recall announcements for Takata airbags,” which he said “needs to end.”
He also called on federal regulators to stop relying on Takata for information. on what models and model years should be recalled. “It is time for N.H.T.S.A. to get Takata out of this process,” he said.
He also called for speedier efforts to address a shortage of replacement inflaters, saying car owners “shouldn’t have to wait months to get their cars fixed.”