Honda gets a jump on Takata, plans to recall more 20 million airbag inflators

May 9, 2016

Last week, the Takata airbag recall nearly tripled in size in the U.S., as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ordered the Japanese supplier to recall an additional 35-40 million airbag inflators. Though Takata hasn't yet publicly responded to those demands, Honda isn't waiting around for the company to take action: according to Japan's Nikkei newspaper, Honda--once Takata's biggest customer--plans to recall an additional 20 million airbag inflators made by the troubled supplier.

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Admittedly, the news comes from an unsourced report, and neither Honda nor Takata have commented on it. However, given NHTSA's directive, the recalls are, at this point, a foregone conclusion. It appears that Honda is simply trying to be proactive in addressing the Takata problem, both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

To date, 28.8 million Takata airbag inflators on 24 million vehicles have been recalled in the U.S. Those inflators employ ammonium nitrate, which is prone to destabilize when exposed to moisture. When destabilized, it can cause airbag systems to explode when the devices are deployed, spraying vehicle occupants with hot shrapnel. To date, such incidents have claimed the lives of at least 10 people in the U.S., one person abroad, and caused more than 100 injuries.

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Takata was initially not cooperative in NHTSA's exhaustive investigation of its airbags, insisting that ammonium nitrate was entirely safe. Last fall, however, Takata finally accepted blame for the fatally flawed devices and said that it would declare all of its inflators that use ammonium nitrate unsafe by 2019, unless it could prove otherwise.

NHTSA, however, clearly isn't interested in waiting three years for the inevitable. Last Wednesday, the agency ordered that 35-40 million additional inflators be recalled in phases, between May 2016 and December 2019. According to Nikkei, Honda's proactive approach to that request will likely cost the automaker around 200 billion yen ($1.84 billion).

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