Defective Takata airbag death toll rises to 17

WASHINGTON, 11 July 2017: 

Honda Motor Co said yesterday it had confirmed an 11th US death involving one of its vehicles tied to a faulty Takata Corp air bag inflator.

The Japanese automaker said the incident occurred in Florida in June 2016 when an individual was working on repairs on a 2001 Honda Accord and the air bag ruptured.

At least 17 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide are now tied to the defect that prompted the largest ever auto safety recall and led Takata to file for bankruptcy protection last month.

Takata inflators can explode with excessive force, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks

The Honda Accord was among a group of more than 300,000 unrepaired recalled Honda vehicles equipped with inflators with a substantial risk of rupturing. Honda said the vehicle’s registered owners had received at least 12 recall notices but never got recommended repairs.

The individual working on the vehicle in Florida died a day after sustaining injuries when the air bag deployed.

Last year, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urged owners to stop driving the “unsafe” cars until they were fixed.

NHTSA said 2001-2003 model Honda and Acura vehicles have as high as a 50% chance of a dangerous air bag inflator rupture in a crash.

Of the deaths linked to Takata’s inflators, 16 took place in Honda vehicles since May 2009 – including five in Malaysia using a different type Takata inflator – while one death occurred in a Ford Motor Co vehicle in South Carolina in December 2015.

Separately, a federal judge in Detroit yesterday said he planned to name law professor Eric D. Green to oversee US$975 million in compensation funds for Takata air bag victims and automakers.

Green, who teaches at Harvard, has served as a mediator in many major cases, including the US Microsoft antitrust case, and currently serves as a Justice Department monitor overseeing the implementation of billions of dollars in consumer relief linked to settlements with banks stemming from the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Scott Caudill, chief operating officer of TK Holdings, Takata’s US unit, said in a court affidavit last month in its bankruptcy filing that the company “faces insurmountable claims” relating to the recalls and owes billions of dollars to automakers.

He disclosed that Takata has recalled, or expects to recall, by 2019 about 125 million vehicles worldwide, including more than 60 million in the US.

– Reuters

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