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From Products Liability Law Daily, March 19, 2015

Honda adds another 100,000+ vehicles to Takata airbag inflator recall

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

American Honda Motor Company, Inc. has expanded the list of vehicles affected by allegedly defective Takata airbag inflators to include an estimated 104,471 additional vehicles—88,549 model year 2008 Pilot SUVs, 10,868 model year 2004 Civic passenger cars, and 5,454 model year 2001 Accord sedans. Upon deployment of the driver side frontal airbag, excessive internal pressure could cause the inflator to rupture. In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver side frontal airbag, the inflator could rupture with metal fragments striking and potentially seriously injuring the vehicle occupants. This recall is an expansion of recall 14V-351 (June 20, 2014) (NHTSA Recall Notice, No. 15V153, Report receipt date: March 16, 2015).

With this most recent action by Honda, the airbag recall has affected approximately 25 million vehicles globally and at least 10 automakers since 2008. The defective inflators have been linked to at least six deaths and dozens of injuries. Honda, which launched a U.S. advertising campaign on Monday urging owners to replace recalled airbags (see Products Liability Law Daily’s March 17, 2015 analysis), said it has not received any claims of airbag inflator rupture in the Pilot SUVs.

ODI investigation. NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened an investigation (PE14-016) in June 2014 based on six inflator rupture incidents involving consumer-owned vehicles produced by five vehicle manufacturers (see Products Liability Law Daily’s June 11, 2014 analysis). All six vehicles were operated in Florida or Puerto Rico at the time of the rupture and for the majority of their service life, and were equipped with inflators produced by Takata. During the course of the investigation, ODI determined that five additional vehicle manufacturers used inflators of a similar design and vintage also supplied by Takata. No evidence of field failures was found in vehicles produced by these five additional manufacturers. Nonetheless, at ODI's insistence, all 10 vehicle manufacturers initiated a regional recall within approximately two weeks of the opening of the investigation. The regions recalled initially included Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, areas with consistently high absolute humidity and climatic conditions believed to be a significant factor in the inflator ruptures. As part of the recall actions, inflators removed from remedied vehicles are to be returned to Takata for testing. Takata's initial test results on passenger inflators from remedied vehicles indicated a much higher than anticipated rupture frequency for inflators returned from Florida.

However, following reports of incidents in geographical locations outside the original recall regions, ODI requested that all 10 manufacturers expand the regional recalls for passenger inflators to include other geographic areas where high absolute humidity conditions exist, including the Gulf States and other coastal areas (see Products Liability Law Daily’s December 1, 2014 analysis).

The PE has been closed/upgraded to an Engineering Evaluation (EA15-001) to include all manufacturers and vehicles known to be affected at this time. ODI's EA investigation will focus on, among other things, root cause analysis, other potential defect consequences, identification of affected vehicles scope, and adequacy of the remedy. The recalls related to this PE are: 14V343, 14V344, 14V348, 14V351, 14V353, 14V655, 14V700, 14V701, 14V752, 14V763, 14V770, 14V773, 14V787, 14V802 and 14V817.

Remedy. Honda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver side frontal airbag inflator in all affected vehicles, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Contact information. Owners may contact Honda customer service at 1-800-999-1009. Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Companies: American Honda Motor Company

MainStory: TopStory ProductRecallsNews MotorVehiclesNews MotorEquipmentNews

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