A typical airbag installation in a US-market Honda

A typical airbag installation in a US-market Honda

Safety regulator NHTSA on Wednesday (22 October) expanded the number of vehicles in the United States that may be affected by recalls for potentially defective Takata air bags that could spray shrapnel at occupants from 6.1m announced on Tuesday to 7.8m.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement cited by Reuters the 7.8m vehicles were made by 10 automakers and the tally consists of recalls this year and in 2013. NHTSA reportedly said the new number corrected the vehicle list provided in previous safety bulletins this week, adding some vehicles and excluding others from previous bulletins.

It is urging owners of certain Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors vehicles to replace installed air bags as soon as possible.

According to Reuters, in the expanded bulletin, Honda accounts for almost 5.1m of the vehicles, Toyota 877,000, Nissan almost 695,000, BMW nearly 628,000 and Chrysler over 371,000.

The agency is investigating whether Takata air bag inflators made between 2000 and 2007 were improperly sealed. Bags inflating with too much force could potentially spray metal shrapnel at occupants. The airbags have been linked to four deaths and resulted in several lawsuits.

The problem with the faulty airbags has made nightly national TV news bulletins across the US this week.

On Monday, in a report dramatically headlined 'It Looked Like a Stabbing, but Takata Air Bag Was the Killer', the New York Times reported the death of Hien Tran in Florida this month after a car accident, as detectives searched for clues "about the apparent stab wounds in her neck".

The paper added: "An unlikely breakthrough arrived in the mail a week after she died from her injuries. It was a letter from Honda urging her to get her red Accord fixed, because of faulty air bags that could explode."

The report said Tran was "at least" the third death associated with the mushrooming recalls of vehicles containing defective air bags made by Takata, the Japanese supplier. More than 14m vehicles from 11 automakers that contain the air bags have been recalled worldwide.

When Tran crashed her car, the air bag, instead of protecting her, appeared to have exploded and sent shrapnel flying into her neck, the Orange County sheriff’s office was quoted as saying.

The paper, which has been tracking the issue in the US for months did not directly link Tran's death to NHTSA's first announcement this week but noted: "On Monday, in an unusual warning, [NHTSA] urged the owners of more than 5m vehicles to 'act immediately' to get the air bags fixed."

"We want to make sure that everyone out there — and we’ve got millions of vehicles involved — is getting engaged and is getting their vehicles fixed to protect themselves and their families," David Friedman, NHTSA's deputy administrator, told the New York Times.

The paper suggested the urgent request was bound to create confusion among owners. Honda said it did not have enough parts to fix the cars immediately. Toyota said it would in some cases disable the air bags, leaving a note not to ride in the front passenger seat. Even Friedman acknowledged that the agency’s list of vehicles covered by the warning was not complete.

A New York Times investigation in September revealed that Honda and Takata had failed for years to take decisive action before issuing the recalls. Complaints received by regulators about various automakers blamed Takata air bags for at least 139 injuries, including 37 people who reported air bags that exploded, the investigation showed.

Takata did not immediately respond when asked by the paper how long it would take to provide replacement air bags. The company "will continue to fully support the NHTSA investigation and our customers' recalls," a Takata spokesman said in an email.

According to the report, Honda has said two people, not including Tran, were killed by rupturing air bags, and more than 30 people injured. Honda said in a statement that it was "too early" to draw any conclusions on Tran’s fatal injuries.

Echoing a problem in the General Motors ignition switch recalls, replacement parts for millions of the vehicles are not available, and will not be for weeks to come, the New York Times said.

"There’s simply not enough parts to repair every recalled single car immediately," Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman, told the paper.

In a similar campaign as Toyota's US sales unit, Honda is sending out recall notifications only as parts become available, with priority in areas of high humidity, where the air bags’ propellant was apparently more susceptible to exploding.

Drivers could wait for weeks or longer to receive notices, Martin told the paper. With 2.8m cars alone affected by the warning on Monday, Honda had "a taller hill to climb", he said, adding that Honda engineers "have no firm idea" when the fixes can be completed. He said loaner cars would be considered case by case, and he stressed that such cars were not part of the offer.

Toyota, which had 844,000 vehicles affected by the warning, since adjusted to 877,000, announced in its campaign it was particularly urging the owners of certain cars in high-humidity areas along the Gulf Coast to make a special effort to get them fixed.

"We’re trying to focus what we have on the areas warranted by Takata’s test result," spokeswoman Cindy Knight told the New York Times by email.

At the heart of the defect is a faulty propellant that is intended to burn quickly and produce gas to inflate the air bag but instead is too strong and can rupture its container, shooting metal parts into the cabin. Takata recently conducted tests on air bags that had been returned, leading to Monday’s warning, the NYT added.

The paper also mentioned at least four more reported recent suspected ruptures, and, citing case lawyers and legal filings, said Honda had not filed a so-called early warning report with safety regulators, as is required in cases where there is a claim of defect that resulted in an injury or death.

The paper highlighted a case dating from September 2011 when Eddie Rodriguez crashed his Honda Civic in Puerto Rico, deploying air bags that launched "sharp pieces of metal" toward him, causing extensive injuries, according to a lawsuit he filed against Honda the following year.

The New York Times said Honda reached a confidential settlement with Rodriguez last year, but did not appear to have filed a report on the case with regulators.

Honda responded it had started a third-party audit of "potential inaccuracies in its reporting".

Show the press release


Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Contact: Karen Aldana, 202-366-9550, Public.Affairs@dot.gov
(Note: Corrects vehicle list provided with advisory of October 20)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges owners of certain Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors vehicles to act immediately on recall notices to replace defective Takata airbags. Over seven million vehicles are involved in these recalls, which have occurred as far back as 18 months ago and as recently as Monday. The message comes with urgency, especially for owners of vehicles affected by regional recalls in the following areas: Florida, Puerto Rico, limited areas near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii.

"Responding to these recalls, whether old or new, is essential to personal safety and it will help aid our ongoing investigation into Takata airbags and what appears to be a problem related to extended exposure to consistently high humidity and temperatures. However, we’re leaving no stone unturned in our aggressive pursuit to track down the full geographic scope of this issue," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman.

Consumers that are uncertain whether their vehicle is impacted by the Takata recalls, or any other recall, can contact their manufacturer’s website to search, by their vehicle identification number (VIN) to confirm whether their individual vehicle has an open recall that needs to be addressed. Owners that have been contacted by their manufacturer should contact their dealer’s service department and make arrangements for the repair. In addition, consumers can sign up for NHTSA recall alerts, which go out before recall letters are mailed by the manufacturers to the affected owners.

7.8 Million Affected U.S. Vehicles, by Manufacturer, Impacted by CY 2013 and 2014 Recalls Involving Takata Airbags

Note: The list below corrects the list that accompanied our October 20 advisory, which incorrectly included certain vehicles. The numbers cited for potentially affected vehicles below are subject to change and adjustment because there may be cases of vehicles being counted more than once. Owners should check their VIN periodically as manufacturers continue to add VINs to the database. Once owner recall notices are available, owners can retrieve a copy from SaferCar.gov, or will receive one by U.S. mail and are advised to carefully follow the enclosed instructions.

BMW: 627,615 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

Chrysler: 371,309 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2008 Dodge Ram 1500
2005 – 2008 Dodge Ram 2500
2006 – 2008 Dodge Ram 3500
2006 – 2008 Dodge Ram 4500
2008 – Dodge Ram 5500
2005 – 2008 Dodge Durango
2005 – 2008 Dodge Dakota
2005 – 2008 Chrysler 300
2007 – 2008 Chrysler Aspen

Ford: 58,669 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2004 – Ranger
2005 – 2006 GT
2005 – 2007 Mustang

General Motors: undetermined total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2005 Pontiac Vibe
2005 – Saab 9-2X

Honda: 5,051,364 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
2006 – Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL
2005 – Acura RL

Nissan: 694,626 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2003 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2003 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – Infiniti FX

Mazda: 64,872 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2007 Mazda6
2006 – 2007 MazdaSpeed6
2004 – 2008 Mazda RX-8
2004 – 2005 MPV
2004 – B-Series Truck

Mitsubishi: 11,985 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2004 – 2005 Lancer
2006 – 2007 Raider

Nissan: 694,626 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2004 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2004 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2004 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – 2005 Infiniti FX35/FX45

Subaru: 17,516 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2005 Baja
2003 – 2005 Legacy
2003 – 2005 Outback
2003 – 2005 Baja
2004 – 2005 Impreza

Toyota: 877,000 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2005 Lexus SC
2002 – 2005 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2005 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2005 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2005 Toyota Tundra

Original source: http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/Vehicle-owners-with-defective-airbags-urged-to-take-immediate-action