Honda Airbag Recall Under Investigation

Earlier last month we wrote that the Honda Motor Company expanded a previous recall from late last year and added nearly a half-million—about 440,000—cars that could contain a <"">dangerous and deadly airbag defect. The BBC previously noted that Honda issued a similar recall this past November. The original recall was for less than 4,000 vehicles.

ABCLocal pointed out that the original recall involved 3,900 model year 2001 Honda Accords and Civics; this year’s expanded recall involved 440,000 vehicles that included model year 2002 Accords and Acura TL models. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is trying to figure out if Honda delayed the total recall and is asking the automaker for details about the eight-month delay, said ABCLocal. Acura is Honda’s luxury brand vehicle.

According to a NYTimes blog, the NHTSA wants to know why the original recall began so minimally and was then expanded to include such a large amount of vehicles. Apparently, the NHTSA has told Honda that it is looking at the car makers “timeliness” in expanding the recall and indicated that Honda’s “failure to respond promptly, truthfully, and completely” could result in “significant civil penalties,” quoted the NYTimes blog.

The expanded recall occurred, said Honda, following its review of air bag releases that took place in May and June that were considered “unusual,” according to the NYTimes blog.

In some cars, the inflators are over-pressurized, which can result in rupture when the airbag is activated, reported CNN Money, citing Honda. “Metal fragments could pass through the cloth airbag cushion material, possibly causing an injury or fatality to vehicle occupants,” quoted CNN Money, which is what happened in a number of cases.

The affected Honda models include the 2001-2002 Honda Accord, the 2001 Civic, and the 2002-2003 Acura TL. According to CNN Money previously, the potential airbag defect resulted in six injuries and one death, citing Chris Naughton, Honda spokesman. Because of the driver-side airbag issue, the recalled Honda cars will have to have the driver’s side steering-wheel-mounted airbag inflator either fixed or replaced, explained CNN Money last month.

A recall notice was sent to registered owners of the vehicles involved in the recall, with customers likeliest to experience a problem contacted first, said CNN Money in August. The recall notices were scheduled to be sent over the next several months and will request consumers to schedule a repair. The Examiner said that Honda is advising consumers to wait for their notice before scheduling a repair appointment.

Last month we also wrote that Honda recalled some of its Inspire and Saber passenger cars in Japan and about 21,000 cars in Canada for similar airbag deployment issues.

The NYTimes blog indicated that the agency sending a letter is considered unusual, citing Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “In essence, this letter is an effort by the agency to decide whether to impose a civil penalty on Honda,” he said, quoted the blog. Penalties of any significance have not been imposed in a number of years, said Ditlow; however, a fine was levied against Honda in 1996 for $50,000 for its failure to recall defective seat belts in a prompt manner, said the NYTimes blog.

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