WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials warned owners of certain 2001-03 Honda and Acura vehicles to stop driving their cars, citing new data showing the vehicles’ Takata airbag inflators have as much as a 50 percent chance of exploding in a crash.
The warning today applies to about 313,000 units of the 2001-02 Honda Civic and Accord, the 2002-03 Acura TL, 2002 Honda CR-V and Odyssey, 2003 Acura CL and 2003 Honda Pilot that were recalled from 2008-11 for Takata inflators that have not yet been repaired.
Takata inflators that can explode in a crash have been linked to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries in the United States alone. Auto safety regulators said today that eight of those deaths occurred in the Honda and Acura vehicles subject to the warning.
“With as high as a 50 percent chance of a dangerous air bag inflator rupture in a crash, these vehicles are unsafe and need to be repaired immediately,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Folks should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired immediately, free of charge.”
The vehicles contain a manufacturing defect that “greatly increases the potential for dangerous rupture when a crash causes the airbag to deploy,” the Transportation Department said in a statement. Lab tests of the vehicles showed rupture rates of has high as 50 percent.
The statement added: “The risk posed by the airbag inflators in these vehicles is grave, and it is critical they be repaired now to avoid more deaths and serious injuries.”
“The airbag inflators in this particular group of vehicles pose a grave danger to drivers and passengers that must be fixed right away,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind said the statement. Rosekind urged drivers to visit the agency’s recall lookup website, www.safercar.gov, or contact their local dealer to see if their vehicle is affected and immediately schedule repairs if needed.
Inflator ruptures are “far more likely” to happen in vehicles that have spent long amounts of time in humid regions, especially Florida, Texas, other parts of the Gulf Coast and in Southern California, the department said.
More than 70 million Takata inflators have been or will be recalled by 2019 in the largest and most complex recall action in U.S. history.
Takata said in a statement it supports efforts to boost recall completon rates and is continuing "to dedicate significant resources to maximize recall completion rates."
According to NHTSA, Honda will redouble efforts to find and fix recalled vehicles and provide additional information to the agency about its work, including weekly progress reports about vehicle repairs.
Honda said in a statement that it agreed with the analysis of testing and the 313,000 vehicles "should only be driven to a dealer in order to have their Takata airbag inflators replaced as rapidly as possible."
Speaking to Automotive News today, John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, said that customers need to take the warning seriously. “We understand that there’s a lot of recall fatigue. We’ve done a lot of research that shows people put it in the stack with the five other notices they’ve gotten,” he said. “But they really need to make this happen.”
"Our dealers are ready, we stand ready to do everything we possibly can to make this happen," he said.
Reaching the first or second owner of vehicles is relatively easy; it’s the third owner or beyond who is more difficult to track down. In addition, Mendel said, language barriers and customer fears that dealers will try to upsell them to a new model or demand that additional repairs be made to pass state safety inspections have also hindered the repair process.
David Undercoffler and Reuters contributed to this report.