The complicated and confusing Takata airbag recall is no longer front-page news, but never fear: the nightmare for Takata, automakers, and consumers plays on.
The latest chapter in the saga involves Takata's biggest client, Honda. On Friday, the automaker issued a recall for select 2016 Honda CR-V crossovers, which are equipped with Takata airbags. In tests conducted at a Honda facility in Mexico, the casing on one of those airbags shattered during deployment.
That sounds similar to what's happened in older vehicles from a range of automakers that were equipped with Tataka airbags. In those cases, the ammonium nitrate Takata used to inflate the airbags became destabilized, causing the airbag systems to shatter upon deployment and pelt vehicle occupants with shrapnel. At least eight deaths have been linked to the devices -- all in Honda vehicles, and most in the U.S.
As Honda explained in a statement, however, the problem with the airbags on the 2016 CR-V appears to be different:
"Takata is performing an ongoing investigation into the cause of the rupture. Takata’s preliminary analysis suggests that the rupture occurred as a result of a structural failure in the inflator casing, not as a result of a problem with the inflator propellant. As such, the defect in the airbag inflators of the affected CR-V vehicles does not appear to be similar to the defect in other Takata airbag inflators that have led to inflator ruptures in vehicles produced by Honda or other manufacturers. In those airbag inflators, the aging of the inflator propellant and exposure to high heat and high absolute humidity are believed to play a central role."
If that's the case, that's very good news.
Also good news? The population of vehicles affected by the recall is small: 515 units manufactured between October 12 and October 19, 2015. Most of those vehicles are still in dealer hands and will be repaired before being sold. Roughly 30 were were delivered to consumers, and Honda says that all have been contacted by phone. Honda will send those owners official recall notices no later than December 4, instructing them to take their vehicles to Honda dealers, who will replace the driver side frontal air bag module at no charge.
But that may not be the end of the never-ending story. As we've learned in the past few days...
- Nissan plans to re-inspect tens of thousands of vehicles in Japan that were previously reviewed by dealers and deemed safe to drive. The re-recall was sparked by a Japanese motorist who was injured by what appears to be shrapnel from a Takata airbag.
- Volkswagen is investigating a number of late-model VW and Audi vehicles equipped with Takata airbags after a device in a 2015 VW Tiguan exploded upon deployment. Though some 2.4 million Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, and VW vehicles in the U.S. contain Takata airbags, the automaker doesn't plan to recall them. (Obviously, diesels are a different matter.) To date, Volkswagen and Tesla are the only clients of Takata that have avoided getting caught up in the recall -- though that could change thanks to increased scrutiny from NHTSA.