One more death is linked to faulty Takata airbag inflators. Honda announced today that the owner of a 2002 Civic died in a hospital on June 11, 2018, three days after sustaining injuries from a driver-side airbag rupture when the Civic crashed in Arizona.
The Civic in question was among seven models cited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2016 for having the highest risk of inflator ruptures. Although officials said at the time that more than 70 percent of these high-risk vehicles — the 2003 Pilot, 2001-02 Civic and Accord, and 2002 CR-V and Odyssey, plus the 2002-03 TL and 2003 CL from Honda’s Acura division — had replacement inflators, the Civic involved in the June 2018 crash did not. It had been purchased less than three months before the crash, Honda said, and the automaker claims it made more than 32 attempts by mail and phone to reach owner.
Asked to confirm the fatality’s linkage to Takata, NHTSA did not immediately respond.
When subjected to years of humidity exposure, breakdowns in the ammonium nitrate used in Takata’s inflators can cause them to rupture with too much force during an airbag deployment, spewing metal shards into the cabin. Automakers and regulators have linked the problem to hundreds of injuries and 16 deaths in the U.S., including today’s announcement.
The problem has spawned the largest automotive recall in U.S. history; dealers are required to install replacement inflators for free. Because of the scale of the recall, which affects some 42 million U.S. vehicles with 56 million defective inflators from the 2000 to 2018 model years, regulators have phased in recalls based on vehicle age and region, with older cars and those in more humid regions getting priority. As of Dec. 31, 2018, all original inflators in all regions are under recall, regardless of vehicle age. Come Dec. 31, 2019, automakers will recall all replacement Takata ammonium-nitrate inflators installed in some cars — as a stopgap to reset the clock on humidity exposure — with inflators that employ an alternate chemical.
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Honda is responsible for the largest single chunk of vehicles under Takata recall; more than a third of all recalled cars are Honda or Acura vehicles. But it also has one of the highest recall completion rates, with 71 percent of affected vehicles repaired as of March 13, per government data. That’s higher than the industry’s overall completion rate, which is about 56 percent.
If you have a vehicle under recall, it’s imperative you get it fixed. If you aren’t sure whether it was, plug your vehicle identification number into NHTSA’s recall lookup here. If you aren’t sure how to find your VIN, watch our short video here.
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