American Honda plans to recall more than 800,000 minivans and crossover-utility vehicles to address a problem that could cause the vehicles to slip out of park and roll away.
The Japanese maker, traditionally known for its high quality, reliability and customer satisfaction has been slammed by an ongoing series of recalls in recent years and appears to be on track for the dubious distinction of having more vehicles involved in safety-related callbacks than any other manufacturer operating in the U.S. for the second year in a row.
The issue involves the ignition interlock, a device intended to ensure that the key can only be removed when a vehicle is firmly shifted into Park. But the mechanism in the vehicles covered by the recall could wear over time and allow the key to be removed when the transmission is in Neutral or some other gear, allowing the vehicle to roll away and a crash could occur — possibly leading to injuries or even fatalities.
While previous recalls have been linked to numerous injuries, a statement by Honda claimed the latest callback was linked to only “a small number of related incidents, including two that allegedly resulted in minor injuries.”
That conflicts with a statement issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when it began its latest investigation into the problem in October. It reported 42 separate complaints involving 2003 and 2004 Honda Odyssey models, with 26 vehicles rolling away and 16 of those involved in some form of collision. One vehicle rolled 600 feet and struck a retaining wall while another rolled two blocks, stopping only after hitting a brick mailbox.
The latest recall covers 318,000 Honda Odyssey minivans and 259,000 Honda Pilot crossovers sold during the 2003 and 2004 model-years, while 230,000 Acura MDX crossovers sold between 2003 and 2006 were also added to the service action. On top of those 807,000 vehicles marketed in the U.S., Honda will recall another 63,000 vehicles sold in 28 other countries.
The latest problem expands an issue that has already nagged the maker since 2003 and has led to a series of recalls over the past decade involving 2.2 million vehicles.
But Honda has had a variety of other safety-related problems in more recent times.
During just one week in October, the maker recalled 1.7 million vehicles in three separate service actions including one for 573,000 due to a potential fire risk, 820,000 because of possible headlight failures and another 266,000 because a door switch could short circuit and also catch fire.
During 2011, Honda was responsible for 3.8 million of the 15.5 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. for safety-related issues. As a result of the latest ignition interlock problem the maker could near or even exceed that total and lead the industry once again.
The only other maker in the dubious position to challenge Honda’s recall tally is Toyota which has had a variety of safety-related issues of its own. Last month, it called back 2.8 million vehicles worldwide, including 670,000 Prius hybrids and other products that could suffer from several different issues that could result in steering problems.
A month earlier it called back 7.43 million vehicles – its largest single service action ever – due to short-circuiting window switches. The problem, which could lead to vehicle fires, involved 2.5 million vehicles sold in the U.S.
Despite such problems, recent studies have shown that the two makers retain their reputation for quality and reliability.
In connection with the latest Honda recall, the maker says it will notify owners in February of next year and will make repairs at no charge.
A statement advises concerned owners they can find out more by going to www.recalls.honda.com or www.recalls.acura.com, or by calling (800) 999-1009 for Honda owners or (800) 382-2238 for Acura owners, and selecting option 4.