Honda expands Takata recall by 1.39 million vehicles

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Honda Motor Co. said Monday it will expand by 1.39 million cars a nationwide recall of vehicles with potentially defective passenger Takata air bags.

The Japanese automaker said the reason was because Takata has declared all of the passenger vehicles defective — even though Honda had told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration it only planned to recall vehicles in high-humidity areas unless the agency told them to expand the callback.

The new recall covers the 2001-05 Civic and 2003-07 Accord.

It’s the latest expansion of part of the estimated largest-ever single auto recall; NHTSA estimates 11 automakers will call back 33.8 million vehicles. The expansion comes just days after Honda confirmed a seventh death in one of its vehicles linked to air bags rupturing and sending deadly metal fragments flying.

Honda had said the latest passenger recall would cover just 350,000 vehicles in high-humidity areas, so Monday’s announcement expands the callback by 1.04 million vehicles.

Honda said Monday that “NHTSA subsequently interpreted the Takata defect determination as requiring a national recall and directed Honda to conduct a national recall.”

Honda has previously recalled 915,000 Civic and Accord vehicles for passenger air bags.

On Friday, Honda said it would take a new $360 million charge to cover the expanding number of vehicles covered by the largest-ever auto recall. And the automaker confirmed that a Louisiana woman killed in a crash in a 2005 Honda Civic in April was killed by an exploding Takata air bag that flung metal fragments at the driver after a minor crash. It happened just three days after Honda mailed her a recall notice.

On April 5, Kylan Langlinais was traveling in Lafayette, Louisiana, when the car hit a utility pole. The suit says the air bag “violently exploded and sent metal shards, shrapnel and/or other foreign material into the passenger compartment ... Langlinais sustained a penetrating injury to the right side of her neck, causing an immediate and profuse loss of blood.”

She died four days later.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement Friday that the most recent death is “likely” because of a faulty Takata inflator. NHTSA reviewed the police report, medical records and inspected the vehicle. It held talks with Honda as well.

“This tragedy underscores the necessity of the actions NHTSA is taking to ensure that every vehicle on America’s roads has a safe air bag,” Rosekind said.

This is the most recent death since a Texas man was killed in a Honda with a defective Takata air bag in January.

Honda — which has recalled nearly 20 million vehicles worldwide with Takata air bags — also has reported more than 60 injuries. In total, more than 100 injuries have been connected to the faulty bags.

Takata, NHTSA and an auto industry consortium still don’t know what the root cause of the problem is.

Last month, Takata under heavy pressure from NHTSA agreed to declare 33.8 million vehicles defective, effectively doubling the size of the recall by 11 major automakers. The company, which has its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, came under heavy criticism from Congress for not acting faster.

Takata said it could take years to build enough replacement parts. And tens of thousands of the air bags that have already been recalled and repaired will need to be fixed again, which some analysts think will be at least 400,000.