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Honda explains why senator’s Civic not recalled

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Honda Motor Co. late Friday offered a detailed explanation for why a 2007 Honda Civic driven by a Republican senator’s daughter has not been recalled for air bag issues.

At a Senate hearing Thursday, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, asked a top Honda North America executive, Rich Schostek, if it was safe for his 18-year-old daughter to drive her car — even when Honda had recalled the 2001-2005 Civic because Takata-made air bags could rupture and cause serious injuries or kill occupants.

Heller said his wife had seen a report on TV and was worried. He ran the car through the recall lookup system online but didn’t know why the newer Civic wasn’t included.

Schostek paused eight seconds before answering Heller. He eventually said that if the vehicle hadn’t been recalled, then it was safe.

Late Friday, Honda spokesman Chris Martin offered details — including the fact that the driver air bag in the newer Civic doesn’t have a Takata air bag inflator.

The 2007 Civic’s driver's frontal air bag inflators “were supplied by a different air bag inflator supplier, and the passenger's frontal air bag inflators, while supplied by Takata, are of a later design than those included in certain earlier vehicles. There are no known incidents with the later passenger air bag inflator design, and we have not identified any defects associated with that design,” Martin said.

The lack of detail angered senators on Thursday. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, who chaired the hearing told Heller, “Better tell your daughter not to drive South in her Honda.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, who chaired two GM hearings, said Thursday it was “incredible” a U.S. senator could ask if his daughter’s car was safe to drive, “and it was clear you weren’t sure how to answer it. That’s a problem. We have a problem,” she told Schostek.