Tucked away in Takata’s announcement that it was adding 5.1 million vehicles to what is already the biggest consumer safety recall in history, was the announcement that an 11th death may have been caused by a faulty airbag inflator. Late last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that there would be an expansion of the Takata funky airbag inflator recall. The agency indicated 5 million vehicles would be added. When Takata-made its own announcement yesterday, the airbag manufacturer suggested it would affect the higher figure.
Hidden in the announcement, though, was the interesting fact that Takata had identified another potential fatality that might be linked to its faulty inflators. In India, last July a motorist died as a result of an accident in which the airbag deployed. The airbag was similar to the one linked to an airbag-related death in Malaysia. In both instances, the vehicles involved were Hondas. Takata said it was not clear whether the fatality was due to the faulty inflator, but, the tenor of the announcement seems to indicate that it was.
Meantime, on the heels of Takata’s expansion of the recall was Ford’s recall of 391,000 2004-06 Ranger midsized pickups. This is the second time these vehicles have been recalled. The first recall was for the passenger-side airbag inflator. The current recall is for the driver-side inflator.
Indeed, the ninth U.S. fatality involving a funky airbag inflator was in a 2006 Ford Ranger. In South Carolina, a driver swerved off the road in November, striking an obstruction. The airbag deployed, bursting the inflator cover which scythed through the interior, hitting the driver. The driver succumbed to these injuries several days after the accident.
So far, the manufacturer hardest-hit by the faulty airbag inflator recall has been Honda. The reason is that until very recently Takata was Honda’s primary airbag supplier. In fact, Honda owned about 1 percent of the airbag manufacturer. So far, said Reuters yesterday Honda has recalled 6.28 million vehicles in the latest round of recalls. Since 2008, when the automaker began recalls relating to airbags, it has recalled a total of 23 million vehicles.
The Takata airbag recall crisis has been acknowledged as the largest car safety recall in history. The addition of the 5.1 million vehicles now brings it to more than 24 million vehicles in the U.S. and 28 million inflators. Hard-pressed Takata, in fact, is deep in discussions with rival Daicel to assure it has enough safe airbags to meet the needs of the recall. Overall, in fact, Takata will need more than 50 million inflators now to meet the demand, as the latest 5.1 million vehicles push the worldwide number of vehicles recalled over the 50 million.
Ford’s recall announcement is the first of seven others that are expected. According to NHTSA, the following carmakers have vehicles that are involved in the latest round:
- Mercedes-Benz/Sprinter vans
Toyota was apparently included in this list. However, a spokesman indicated that the vehicles in this latest round had already been recalled.
Most of the vehicles involved in the recalls have been older models. However, there have been examples of airbag inflators in models from as late as 2014 that are failing tests. It is entirely possible that millions of late-model vehicles (2014 and later) may be added to what is turning into the black hole of all car recalls. There is no final word on this from NHTSA