300K Hondas with faulty airbags remain unrepaired

Michael Wayland

Detroit — About 300,000 Honda Motor Co. cars equipped with faulty Takata Corp. airbags that have as high as a 50 percent chance of rupturing during an accident remain on U.S. roadways, according to the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA first issued an urgent warning for these Honda and Acura vehicles to be repaired in June. But only 13,000, or 4 percent, of owners have had the cars and trucks repaired in the last five months.

“Every time we lose a life, it means we’re not doing enough,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters on Tuesday at the 2016 Original Equipment Suppliers Association annual conference in Detroit. “We have to get people to know when they get (the recall notice), get it fixed. It’s no cost. Get it fixed ... more needs to get done.”

Last month, NHTSA confirmed that a 50-year-old woman who died Sept. 30 in Riverside County, California, was the 11th known U.S. fatality attributed to Takata air bags. Her 2001 Honda Civic was part of the group of 300,000 vehicles with a higher risk of failure, which NHTSA is calling the “Alpha group.”

Rosekind said the organization is working with Honda to identify where the vehicles are located. The federal vehicles safety watchdog has gone as far as hiring private investigators, and may put into action a mobile drive to go to neighborhoods where a group of mechanics are to repair the vehicles on-the-spot for owners.

“These are new things that have never been done,” he said, adding it’s to track down the group because many have been sold several times. “That’s part of the problem. When we’re talking about third-, fourth-, fifth-owner, they could be anywhere in the country.”

The one in two defect rate is a far higher defective rate of the other 70 million vehicles on the road today that are equipped with faulty airbag inflators from the embattled Japanese auto supplier, which has been selling off its assets.

“We’ve had a significant number of meetings with Honda,” Rosekind said. “It’s just not happening fast enough for anybody.”

The Alpha group of vehicles that have a higher risk of exploding air bags include: 2001-02 Honda Civic; 2001-02 Honda Accord; 2002-03 Acura TL; 2002 Honda CR-V; 2002 Honda Odyssey; 2003 Acura CL; and 2003 Honda Pilot.

All of the vehicles were recalled between 2008 and 2011, but the agency said only 70,000 had been repaired as of June, leaving 313,000 at-risk vehicles on the nation’s roadways.

NHTSA has recalled nearly 70 million Takata air bags after the safety agency confirmed the cause behind the inflators’ propensity to rupture, especially in humid climates. Flying shrapnel from exploding Takata inflators has been tied to 11 deaths — possibly 13 deaths — and more than 100 injuries worldwide.

Takata has been ordered to recall all of the faulty air bags by the end of 2019. The recall is being implemented in a phased approach that prioritizes cars that were sold in states with high temperature and humidity. Michigan is among the lowest-priority states in the recall.

NHTSA continues to urge drivers to visit SaferCar.gov or contact their local dealer to check whether their vehicle is affected.


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Twitter: @MikeWayland