Honda Motor Corp. has widened its recall of vehicles fitted with faulty airbags made by Japanese supplier Takata Corp. by another 170,000 units. The announcement came after the company said that a driver died in Malaysia after being blasted with shrapnel from one of the defective airbags.
The fatality in Malaysia was the fifth known record of a driver or passenger being killed by an exploding airbag in a Honda vehicle and the first such death to occur outside of the United States.
The Takata airbags at the center of the Honda recall and recalls by 11 different other car manufacturers have been installed in more than 14 million vehicles worldwide since 2008. Honda’s latest recall expansion brings the total number of its vehicles recalled for potentially exploding Takata airbags to nearly 10 million.
Honda said that the Malaysia incident occurred on July 27 and involved the airbag inflator rupturing inside of a 2003 Honda City model, which blasted metal shrapnel throughout the vehicle, killing the female driver.
In addition to Honda, Takata airbags are installed in a number of other brands and models. In an October alert, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that other vehicles at risk included various models made by Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Ford, and General Motors.
The problem stems from a faulty humidity-sensitive inflator in the airbags on either the driver or passenger side, or both, that either fails to deploy the airbag in a crash, or deploys the system with excessive force, causing components to break apart, even in mere fender benders and other mild collisions.
Most, but not all, of the incidents have occurred in high-humidity states of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to Honda, the Takata air bag inflator that failed in the Malaysia incident had likely been exposed to excessive moisture – probably at a Takata manufacturing facility in LaGrange, Ga., that has since been shut down.
According to Reuters, Honda said the recall expansion covers all vehicles equipped with air bag inflators “of the same specification made between November 2001 and November 2003 on the problematic section of a line at that plant.”
Honda said it first learned of the Malaysia fatality on Aug. 27 and notified the transport ministry in Japan on Sept. 10.
In the U.S., the most recent fatality involving an exploding Takata airbag occurred on Sept. 29 when a 46-year-old woman in Orlando was killed after a fender-bender triggered her airbag to blast metal shards into her neck. She was driving a 2001 Honda Accord, which is included among the models that are being recalled.