Already struggling to fix millions of vehicles recalled due to defective Takata airbag inflators, Honda has run into still more airbag problems.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation covering 384,000 Honda Accords after receiving reports of 19 incidents in which the vehicles’ aribags failed to deploy during a crash. The investigation could eventually lead to a recall that could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to some reports.
The problem, it appears, may be the result of a faulty Supplemental Restraint System, or SRS, control module, notes NHTSA, a statement by the agency noting that, “For vehicles with a failed SRS module, some or all of the airbags may be unavailable in a crash warranting deployment.”
Honda has run into a series of airbag problems in recent years, the bulk of them linked to its widespread use of Takata inflators. Those are the explosive devices designed to rapidly inflate an airbag after the SRS system detects a crash. At least eight deaths have so far been linked to defective Takata systems which can fire so forcefully that metal and plastic shrapnel bursts into the passenger compartment.
The Takata problem has so far forced Honda to recall about 20 million vehicles and, during the April to June quarter, resulted in a 9% dip in year-over-year earnings. The crisis was a major factor in the early retirement of former Honda CEO Takanobu Ito earlier this year.
(New Honda CEO hopes to get carmaker past its Takata troubles. Click Herefor more.)
It’s far too early to tell whether Honda will be hit by a new airbag recall, but NHTSA has indicated it is examining “the scope, frequency and consequence” of an SRS module failure. And based on the aggressive, safety-first policy of the agency’s new Administrator Mark Rosekind, a callback is considered more likely than it might have been in years past.
Only one injury has so far been linked to the problem, according to reports filed with NHTSA, but the agency has a growing list of complaints, including one filed in March in which an owner noted, “My son was driving my car and did not make a turn and ran into a concrete block wall at about 50 mph. The air bags did not deploy.”
According to a report in the Detroit News, a recall would likely require the replacement of the entire SRS module, something that costs at least $500 per vehicle. Some dealers reportedly have demanded as much as $700 to install a replacement module which currently is not considered under warranty.
If the issue were limited to the 2008 Honda Accord – the only year currently under investigation – it could nudge the cost to Honda into the $200 million range.
(New calls to recall all Takata airbags as more problems surface. Click Herefor the latest.)
While safety advocates stress that airbags have saved many thousands of lives since being mandated a quarter century ago, they have become an increasingly worrisome cause of problems. Only last week, two U.S. senators called for the recall of all vehicles using Takata airbags after NHTSA was notified of a crash involving a late-model Volkswagen Tiguan that resulted in shrapnel being launched into the passenger compartment. The earlier Takata recalls focused on older vehicles, and only on frontal airbags. The latest incident involved not only a 2015 VW but a side-impact airbag.
Separately, TheDetroitBureau.com recently reported that NHTSA is looking into potentially broader issues, looking to see if airbags, in general, may start to malfunction as they age. The agency has not launched a formal investigation, however.
(Do airbags grow deadly as they age? Click Here for the exclusive report.)