Honda expands Takata recalls by 104,000 vehicles

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Honda Motor Co. said Thursday it will recall another 104,000 vehicles linked to potentially faulty Takata air bags — the latest expansion of the issue that now covers more than 17 million vehicles in the United States.

The bulk of the vehicles recalled are by Honda, which has reports of at least six deaths and 64 injuries connected to air bags exploding and sending deadly metal fragments flying. Honda has recalled 5.5 million vehicles since last year — and previously recalled millions more dating back to 2008.

The new recall covers 88,549 2008 Honda Pilot, 10,868 2004 Civic and 5,454 2001 Accord vehicles.

“While certain 2001 Accord and 2004 Civic vehicles were previously included in 14V-351, no 2008 Pilot models were included before this addition. Honda has not received any claims of air bag inflator rupture in 2008 Pilot models,” Honda said.

Honda said the same repair, replacement of the driver front air bag inflator free of charge, will apply to these additional vehicles nationwide. Honda said the vehicles were added after a review to determine which vehicles had potentially faulty Takata air bag inflators.

Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration upgraded its investigation into 12 million vehicles with potentially defective Takata air bags. It ordered the Japanese auto parts company to preserve all air bag inflators used in testing.

Upgrading the investigation is necessary in order for the agency to begin the process of forcing Takata to recall air bags if the agency determines they pose an unreasonable risk to driver safety. NHTSA officials last year pledged to go to court if necessary if Takata refused to declare some air bags defective.

NHTSA this month began levying $14,000 a day in civil penalties against Takata for failing to respond to requests for information about more than 2.5 million pages of documents it has produced to NHTSA.

Last month, a group of 10 automakers — including Honda — named Virginia-based aerospace and defense firm Orbital ATK to conduct independent testing on Takata air bag inflators that have been subject to recent recalls.

The automakers also confirmed that former acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Kelly was named project manager and coordinator of the joint-testing initiative.

The automakers — BMW AG, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Honda., Mazda Motor Co., Mitsubishi, Nissan Motor Co., Subaru Motors USA and Toyota Motor Corp. — are participating in an industry-wide joint testing initiative to understand the root cause of defective air bags that in some cases have exploded and sent deadly metal fragments flying.

In a joint statement, the automakers said: "Orbital ATK is one of the world's leading engineering firms, and we are confident that their extensive expertise will help speed and advance the ongoing technical investigation of Takata air bag inflators. This selection, along with David Kelly, represents an important step forward in our industry-wide effort. We look forward to the results of this rigorous testing process as we continue to focus on the safety, security and peace of mind of our customers."

Automakers want to understand the failures and want assurances that replacement air bags won't eventually face the same problems — especially in high-humidity areas where most problems have occurred.

The automakers said Orbital ATK will lead overall engineering research into the issues surrounding Takata air bag inflators, with testing to begin immediately. Kelly will serve as project manager and coordinator for the automakers, directing the research program and acting as the primary contact for the media and other public requests.

Air bags are similar to solid rocket boosters, in that air bags use a solid propellant to create gas to inflate the bag quickly in a crash.