313,000 high-risk Honda owners told to stop driving until airbags fixed

Federal regulators told the owners of 313,000 Hondas, equipped with questionable Takata-made airbag inflators, were told to park their cars today unless the cars were headed into the shop for repair.

The Takata airbag inflator recall took on a much more serious tone today when federal regulators raised the stakes telling the owners of 313,000 2001-03 Honda-made vehicles to stop driving unless they were headed to a dealership to have the faulty airbag repaired.

“With as high as 50 percent chance of a dangerous airbag inflator rupture in a crash, these vehicles are unsafe and need to be repaired immediately,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said emphatically today. “Folks should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired immediately, free of charge.”

According to the new test data, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), investigators found that some airbag inflators show a higher risk of rupture during airbag deployment. This prompted the agency to speed up locating and repairing these vehicles before there are any further injuries or fatalities.

NHTSA said that the high-risk inflators are in some of the following vehicles:

According to regulators, the airbag inflators in the affected vehicles have a manufacturing defect that significantly increases the risk of a potentially fatal rupture when a crash causes airbag deployment. Ruptures are much more likely to occur in vehicles that have spent significant periods of time in high-humidity areas such as Florida, Texas and other parts of the Coast and Southern California. When these vehicles were tests, the results showed that the inflator failure rates were as high as 50 percent in a laboratory.

The vehicles about which consumers were warned today have already been recalled at least once. They were first recalled between 2008 and 2011. Indeed, the automaker has indicated that more than 70 percent of the higher-risk vehicles have been repaired. Unfortunately, in 313,000 vehicles the dangerous defect has gone unrepaired. Bryan Thomas, chief NHTSA spokesman, said in a statement today that the “risk posed by the airbag inflators in these vehicles is grave, and it is critical they be repaired now to avoid more deaths and serious injuries.”

NHTSA and the automaker are seeking the assistance of the media and consumers to find the remaining unrepaired vehicles. If a driver believes that the vehicle he or she is driving may be affected the issue, the operator can visit www.safercar.gov to see if the vehicle has any outstanding recalls. All the driver has to do is enter the vehicle’s year, model and make to see if there are any recalls. On finding there may be an open recall, the owner can then go to another section of the website where the Vehicle Identification Number can be entered to see the specifics on a vehicle.

If an owner finds there are outstanding recalls, the vehicle should be taken to the nearest dealer as quickly as possible to ensure that the repairs are made. There is no cost for the repair. The parts are available now.

“The airbag inflators in this particular group of vehicles pose a grave danger to drivers and passengers that must be fixed right away,” Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator said Thursday. He commended Honda “for taking additional actions to get these vehicles repaired.”

Thursday’s warning grew out of a retesting program the agency implemented following recent reports of ruptures. NHTSA ordered Takata to perform extra ballistic testing of its products following recent ruptures. Eight of the 10 U.S. fatalities linked to exploding Takata airbag inflators occurred within the 313,000 vehicles identified Thursday. Indeed, the most recent death that happened in Fort Bend County, Texas was also within the most susceptible vehicles.

To its credit, Honda has committed to immediately going the extra distance in their efforts to find and fix recalled vehicles. Honda has also agreed to provide more information about their efforts and to report weekly on the status of vehicle repairs.

Meantime, NHTSA is also expanding its consumer outreach by using:

  • A paid media campaign
  • A series of outreach events in high-risk areas
  • The insurance industry to help find unrepaired vehicles

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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