The number of deaths in the U.S. tied directly to defective Takata airbag inflators has risen to 11 after a California woman’s driver-side airbag ruptured in her 2001 Honda Civic.
At least 16 deaths are now linked to the defect, which trigged the largest recall in automotive history: Nearly 100 million airbag inflators worldwide by more than a dozen automakers.
The most recent U.S. fatality was confirmed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Honda. The 50-year-old woman died after sustaining severe injuries during a Sept. 30 crash. The car was one of more than 300,000 model year 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles recalled due to the inflator issue.
Honda officials said the Civic in the collision was first recalled in 2008, but the was never brought in for repair despite 20 separate notices being mailed to the registered owners addresses. It is first U.S. Takata airbag death reported since March when a 17-year-old Texas high school senior died.
(NHTSA reports showing hundreds of Takata airbags rupturing in testing. For more, Click Here.)
Automakers have fixed about 11.4 million inflators in the United States thus far, but that leaves more than 20 million remaining to be replaced. The defective inflators deploy with too much force sending metal fragments flying in to the vehicle’s cabin.
Nearly 70 million Takata inflators in U.S. vehicles are or will be recalled through 2019 under a massive recall plan being coordinated by NHTSA. The agency has also been overseeing the tests to determine what’s causing the airbags to explode.
The Takata problem appears to have been triggered by a manufacturing defect that makes its older airbag inflator design especially vulnerable to high heat and humidity. But a recent, industry-funded study also warned that the basic chemical used in the inflators, ammonium nitrate, is vulnerable to breaking down and misfiring as it ages.
(To see more about the Takata CEO’s resignation, Click Here.)
The bags rupture primarily for two reasons, according to the reports: materials and manufacturing problems. With time and exposure to moisture and changing temperatures can make the ammonium nitrate unstable.
NHTSA said the recall, initially focusing on older vehicles operating in high humidity regions, such as Southern Florida, is expected to complete by 2019.
(To see more about Takata selling off ownership stakes in automakers to raise money for compensation, Click Here.)
The defect has been linked to at least 100 injuries in the U.S. and put Takata under severe financial duress. The supplier’s customers have moved to other suppliers and its stock price has tanked in the last two years, prompting the supplier to look for another company to take a stake in the business or buy it lock, stock and barrel.
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