The tragedy of Takata’s faulty airbag inflators continued with a 19th fatality in early January, American Honda Motor Co. revealed Wednesday.
According to Honda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a person driving a 2002 Honda Accord died Jan. 9, when the inflator ruptured after a crash in Lancaster County, South Carolina. Honda officials confirmed it’s the 16th fatality in one of its vehicles equipped with the faulty inflators.
The inflators are part of a massive recall effort after it was determined the inflators are loaded with volatile mix of chemicals that can, under certain conditions, explode, sending pieces of metal and plastic into the vehicle’s cabin, often causing injuries or death.
Honda or Acura vehicles account for 16 of the 19 fatalities in the U.S. and more than 200 of the 400-plus injuries, NHTSA reports. The inflators have been tied to 28 deaths globally.
Honda’s recall efforts
The automaker noted the Accord involved in this crash had been under recall since April 2011 for replacement of the original Takata driver’s frontal airbag inflator.
Starting in June 2011, Honda made more than 100 attempts to reach owners of this vehicle including mailed notices, phone calls, emails and in-person canvassing visits. Despite these efforts, Honda’s records show the repair was not completed.
The driver killed in this crash was not the registered owner of the vehicle, and Honda does not know if the driver was aware of the unrepaired recalls affecting this vehicle, the company noted.
“American Honda continues to urge owners of Honda and Acura vehicles affected by the Takata airbag inflator recalls to get their vehicles repaired at authorized dealers as soon as possible,” the company urged in a statement.
“Older vehicles, especially 2001-2003 model year vehicles, have a heightened risk of an airbag inflator rupture and pose the greatest safety risk. Vehicle owners can check their vehicles’ recall status at www.recalls.honda.com for Honda owners or www.recalls.acura.com for Acura owners or by calling their authorized dealer.”
Honda notes that it has completed repairs on 88.1% of its affected vehicles in the U.S. The company replaced more than 20,000 inflators each day last year, Honda officials noted, adding that more than 16.4 million inflators have been replaced.
The action covers about 100 million inflators worldwide, including about 67 million in the U.S. Aside from Honda, there have been fatalities in Ford (2) and BMW vehicles in the U.S. Prior to January, the last death occurred June 8, 2018 in a 2002 Honda Civic. Overall, 19 automakers are involved in the recall.
At this point, NHTSA officials estimates show 50 million of the 67 million inflators have been replaced or accounted for as part of the recall.
The Takata airbag recall is not only the largest safety-related service action in U.S. history, but also the longest-running recall, with the first advisories going out to vehicle owners back in 2001. It took years for industry leaders, regulators and safety experts to agree on the extent of the problem, but then it was slowed due to a shortage of replacement inflators. However, NHTSA brought in other suppliers, such as Autoliv, and Takata tripled its production capacity eliminating that problem.