UPDATED: See below
This doesn't bode well: Honda has added several million more vehicles to its already-massive Takata airbag recall. Prior to the announcement, Takata's biggest client had recalled about 20 million vehicles worldwide. The expansion brings that total to 24.5 million.
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The good news -- at least for American Honda owners -- is that the recall expansion is limited to vehicles registered abroad. (Honda hasn't provided a precise geographic breakdown, but has revealed that 1.63 million of the 4.5 million vehicles are registered in Japan.)
The bad news? The expansion adds later-model vehicles to Honda's recall list -- for example, the 2007-2011 Honda CR-V crossover. (Here in the U.S., the only CR-Vs affected are from model-years 2002-2006.) Honda hasn't indicated any plans to expand U.S. recalls, too, but since the company is still uncovering problems, it's a distinct possibility that those problems will surface in American vehicles down the line. Note: see Honda's update below.
The worse news? Takata remains stubbornly defiant, even in the face of overwhelming criticism of its business practices. The company continues to manufacture some airbags with ammonium nitrate -- the easily destabilized chemical compound that's led to the 57.5 million recalls worldwide. And unbelievably, it has also refused to create a compensation fund for victims.
The worst news of all? Takata's production numbers are completely inadequate to handle the scale of these recalls (not least because some of the replacement devices Takata initially produced have had to be replaced themselves). NHTSA has said that, even at increased volume, it will take Takata two-and-a-half years to manufacture enough replacement parts to fix every affected vehicle -- which is probably why automakers are now looking elsewhere for suppliers.
To date, Takata's fatally flawed airbags have been linked to at least eight deaths and 100 injuries. For a recap of the long, unpleasant story, click here. To see a list of all U.S. vehicles affected by the Takata recalls, visit SaferCar.gov.
UPDATE: Good news! Honda has confirmed that this particular recall expansion won't affect vehicles in the U.S. or Canada. From Chris Martin in Honda's PR department:
"[T]he type of airbag inflator involved in this global recall was not installed on any vehicles sold in the United States or Canada. Thus, this global recall will not affect any vehicles sold in these two countries."