Honda confirmed on Friday, June 1, that a faulty Takata airbag killed another person in Malaysia last week, bringing the number of Malaysians killed by exploding Takata airbags to seven and the global toll to at least 23.
According to Reuters, the Japanese automaker said the latest death occurred in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, May 27, when a Takata airbag exploded inside a 2004 Honda City vehicle. Few more details were given about the case, which comes exactly five months since the last Takata airbag-related death was confirmed in Malaysia Jan. 1.
All of the remaining cases except for one in Australia have occurred in the U.S., and all but two of the deadly Takata airbag malfunctions have occurred in Honda vehicles. The two deaths not involving Honda vehicles occurred in Ford pickup trucks.
Honda did say that the 2004 City car involved in last week’s death had been included in a 2105 recall to fix the problem but the repair had never been made. The news underscores the difficulty of recalling older vehicles that may have changed ownership multiple times, making it difficult for the manufacturer to track down current owners.
The defect in Takata’s airbags stems from the Japanese auto supplier’s use of ammonium nitrate in the inflator mechanisms that deploy the airbag in a crash. The chemical compound becomes more unstable and hypersensitive as it ages, especially if exposed to hot and humid conditions, and can inflate the airbags with lethal force.
The people killed by defective Takata airbags suffered fatal lacerations caused by fragments from the airbag’s metal container and other blast injuries. In addition to the 23 deaths, more than 290 confirmed injuries have been reported, some as serious as loss of an eye and other permanent disfigurement.
Once it came to light, the Takata airbag defect triggered the largest automotive safety recall in history, encompassing some 100 million airbag inflators in millions of vehicles made by 19 automakers.
In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set a target date for recalled Takata airbags to be replaced by the end of 2017, yet 42 percent of the recalled repairs haven’t been made. The missed deadline prompted NHTSA acting director Heidi King to send a letter to all automakers affected by the recall, requesting a meeting about the unrepaired airbags.