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Honda Motor Co. may bear the brunt of a recent recall expansion for Takata airbag inflators, which pose a risk of over-inflating and exploding, sending deadly shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment.
Recent reports suggest that the Honda is preparing to recall another 20 million vehicles, after it has already been the hardest hit auto maker impacted by the Takata airbag problems.
Prior to this pending action, more than 50 million vehicles sold worldwide have been impacted by Takata airbag recalls, with about half involving vehicles sold by Honda.
Last week, U.S. transportation officials indicated that another 35 to 40 million inflators will soon be recalled by Takata, due to the risk of exploding and causing serious injury or death.
On Sunday, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported that Honda is preparing to recall an additional 20 million vehicles. It is unclear whether that is in addition to, or part of, the U.S. expansion, but the Japanese paper indicated that the recalls would affect vehicles in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Honda officials would only say on Monday that it has so far made no announcements on additional airbag recalls.
The airbag inflators pose a serious risk as vehicles remain on the road. At least ten deaths and hundreds of severe injuries have already been linked to the problems, with many first responders describing horrific injuries among those impaled by the debris shot out of the airbag.
Nearly every major automaker has been impacted by the recalls, including Honda, General Motors, Ford, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chrysler (FCA), Mazda, Toyota, and various others.
The efforts to repair vehicles with recalled airbag inflators have faced an uphill climb, as additional recalls continue to be issued, adding more and more vehicles to the list.
Amid concerns about the pace of recall repairs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a Consent Order in November 2015, which requires Takata to be cooperative with the agency in all future actions involving the recall investigation and demands that the NHTSA be head controller of the recall campaigns in the U.S., granting the agency exclusive control in organizing and prioritizing the recall process to speed up the repairs. In addition, the NHTSA fined Takata $200 million.
Under the consent order, the NHTSA ordered Takata to stop manufacturing phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate propellant inflators that investigators believe are the root cause of the problems. Investigators from the agency have insisted the inflators ammonium nitrate based propellants are unstable when exposed to high humidity causing them to rupture either spontaneously or when needed in automobile crashes.
The ammonium nitrate based inflators have been found to pose explosion risks under certain conditions, unlike normal inflators. Investigations by the NHTSA have identified the inflators are more susceptible to explode in more humid climates, mainly southern regions of the U.S. that are closer to the equator. The NHTSA has specifically stated that the ammonium nitrate based propellants may not be suitable for inflator designs due to the unknown effects of climate impact.
Currently, the NHTSA is reviewing the results of three separate safety investigations on what has caused the inflators to rupture.