The newspapers rifled with nary a whisper when the recalls first began. By today’s figures, Honda’s initial recall of 4,000 Civics and Accords seems comparatively naive — hardly enough to move the scales of public concern. But it was also November 4, 2008 when the announcement was made, and we were all a little distracted at the time — an upstart, freshman Senator from Chicago was hours from becoming our first black president, you might recall — so you’ll have to forgive reporters if they were chasing leads more buzzworthy than exploding airbags.
It was a different time then, too: Takata had yet to become a household name for all the wrong reasons, and by all accounts nobody had died so far. But none of this knowledge would have been of any use to Ashley Parham when the airbag in her 2001 Accord betrayed her. The model of car she’d been driving would not be recalled until two months after her funeral.
So catastrophic were her injuries that the ER doctors thought she’d taken a round of buckshot to her carotid artery. In reality, the Oklahoma teenager had merely gotten into a minor fender bender in her high school parking lot.
Her vehicle’s Takata airbag, the one that was intended to save her life, had deployed with such tremendous force that its innards sprayed outward as shrapnel.
More than 10 years later, the auto industry is still cleaning up the mess that the Takata Corporation created. Its cheap airbag inflators — which were manufactured at their humid, Monclova, Mexico plant — utilized a notoriously unstable and moisture-averse compound as a propellant: ammonium nitrate. The same explosive Timothy McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City Bombing.
But when it comes to this world-wide clean-up effort, one now involving 42 million vehicles and counting, Honda appears to be having a uniquely rough go of it. Their latest recall of 1.1 million vehicles is not to replace Takata’s first-run “Alpha” airbags. Rather, it’s to replace the replacements they had already replaced.
We’ll forgive you if you have to read that sentence twice. Suffice it to say, this is not the first time that Honda owners have had no choice but to bring their cars back to the shop. On a number of occasions, first in 2011, and then again in 2015, Honda has been forced to re-recall hundreds of thousands of cars because the replacement inflators they’d previously installed were just as defective as the originals.
The responsibility isn’t entirely theirs; there’s potential liability on Takata’s part for continuing to supply faulty products. But the fact that Honda thought it was a good idea to replace defective Takata airbags with even more Takata airbags — let alone any product that came out of the same Monclova factory that manufactured the dangerous “Alphas” — is questionable at best.
Honda’s latest recall is a bitter capstone on top of a year-long investigation by the auto giant. The event precipitating the inquiry occurred on January 19th, 2018, when the driver of a 2004 Odyssey injured his arm after the replacement inflator supplied as a “fix” ruptured in a crash.
That man fared far better than many others have in their run-ins with Takata inflators, but that’s hardly consolation when the injury should not have been allowed to happen in the first place. Presumably the unnamed owner has already retained a personal injury lawyer to aid him in filing liability claim, as Ashley Parham’s family and others rightfully did in pursuit of their own recompense.
This is not the first time we’ve covered the ongoing Takata airbag fiasco. In light of this latest recall, as well as others by automakers Ford, Toyota, Tesla, and Fiat Chrysler — each announced in the past few month, and all in connection with what NHTSA has described as “the largest and most complex vehicle recall in U.S. history” — we thought it prudent to revisit the subject.
As of that article’s initial posting last May, a staggering 37 million affected vehicles had been recalled worldwide. That number is expected to top 70 million by the time 2019 is up. Is yours one of them?
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“TIMELINE: Takata’s airbag crisis began in 2008.” Crain Communications. Retrieved 14 Mar 2019. https://www.autonews.com/article/20170625/OEM10/170629833/timeline-takata-s-airbag-crisis-began-in-2008
“Honda Recalls 1.1 Million Vehicles After Air Bag Injures Driver.” NPR. Retrieved 14 Mar 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/03/13/702894575/honda-recalls-1-1-million-vehicles-after-air-bag-injures-driver
“10 years after Takata recall began, thousands of ‘time bomb’ air bags [sic] are still on the road.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 Mar 2019. http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-takata-recall-20180423-story.html
“Airbag Compound Has Vexed Takata For Years.” New York Times. Retrieved 14 Mar 2019. https://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/business/compound-in-takata-airbags-is-inquirys-focus.html
SaferCar.gov. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved 14 Mar 2019. https://www.safercar.gov/
“Ft. Bend Co. officials address teen’s airbag death.” ABC13. Retrieved 14 Mar 2019. http://abc13.com/automotive/ft-bend-co-officials-address-teens-airbag-death-/1279407/
“Takata Airbag Recall: A Complete List of Affected Vehicles.” New York Daily News. Retrieved 14 Mar 2019. http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/news/takata-airbag-recall-list-cars-article-1.2602999