Honda recalls 1.39 million vehicles for passenger airbag flaw

WASHINGTON — At the direction of U.S. auto safety regulators, American Honda said it will recall about 1.39 million vehicles with faulty passenger-side airbags made by Takata Corp.

The new recall affects 2001-05 model year Civic compacts and 2003-07 Accord midsize sedans with passenger-side Takata airbag inflators. It includes roughly 350,000 vehicles Honda said it would recall on May 28, plus about 1 million additional units that were excluded from earlier recalls and regional “safety improvement campaigns” to replace passenger-side airbags in areas with high humidity.

The latest recalls bring the number of passenger-side airbag inflators to be replaced to 2.3 million nationwide, Honda said.

The airbags have been linked to at least seven deaths when the airbag deploys. In some cases, the metal airbag inflator, or canister, ruptures, spraying metal fragments that can injure or kill occupants.

Nearly all of the vehicles included in the action have already been recalled to replace driver-side Takata airbags, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said. That means a customer may need additional repairs if they replaced their driver-side airbag but not the passenger side.

Because the new passenger-side recall affects vehicles already covered by driver-side airbag campaigns, the total number of Honda and Acura vehicles in the United States included in the Takata campaigns remains at about 6.28 million, Martin said.

U.S. pressure

Honda’s decision to recall the vehicles on Monday was prompted by U.S. auto safety regulators, who told the automaker to expand nationwide an earlier recall that was previously limited to U.S. states and territories with hot, muggy climates.

Yet Honda’s move stopped short of a nationwide recall, despite statements from U.S. officials indicating that the recalls should be nationwide.

On May 19, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released defect reports from Takata in which the supplier acknowledged that nearly 34 million of its airbag inflators in U.S. vehicles may be defected and should be replaced.

The disclosure was an about face from Takata, which for months refused to admit that its inflators were defective, and one that U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said would prompt nationwide recalls for the parts.

The 11 automakers affected by the announcement were caught off guard, and spent the next few weeks scrambling to figure out which and how many of their vehicles needed to be recalled, some for a second time.

After sifting through Takata defect reports, Honda said on May 28 that it would need to add about 350,000 Civics and Accords to an existing campaign to replace passenger-side airbags in high-humidity areas, including states along the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii and outlying territories such as Puerto Rico.

NHTSA interpreted Takata’s defect reports as warranting a national recall and instructed the automaker to do so, Honda said in its statement today.

“Based on the Takata defect determination and the NHTSA’s subsequent directive, Honda decided to conduct a national recall,” the automaker said in its statement.

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