WASHINGTON -- U.S. regulators and American Honda Motor Co. have confirmed the 11th U.S. fatality linked to a ruptured Takata airbag inflator.
The victim, a 50-year-old woman, died from injuries sustained during the Sept. 30 crash in Riverside County, Calif., which caused the driver-side Takata airbag inflator in her 2001 Honda Civic to rupture, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Honda.
The victim’s vehicle was among the roughly 313,000 model year 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles that NHTSA warned owners in June to stop driving because of a "grave danger" posed by that generation of Takata airbags. That population of vehicles contained Takata inflators that were never replaced under previous recalls and contained a manufacturing defect that elevates the chance that the inflator could rupture in a crash to as much as 50 percent, according to NHTSA.
According to Honda, the 2001 Civic’s inflator was first recalled in 2008 but never repaired despite more than 20 notices mailed to the registered owners of the vehicle.
The 11th U.S. death adds to the mounting human costs of what has become the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history. At least five more fatalities have been reported globally, according to Reuters.
Nearly 70 million Takata inflators in U.S. vehicles are or will be recalled through 2019 under a massive recall plan being coordinated by NHTSA.
According to the agency, some 11.4 million Takata recalled inflators had been replaced as of Oct. 7, representing about 36 percent of total number of airbags under recall to-date.
The deadly defect has been linked to at least 100 injuries in the U.S. alone and put Takata under severe financial duress. Takata’s inflator customers have to fled to rival suppliers and its stock price has tanked in the last two years, prompting the supplier to scramble for a buyer.
Meanwhile, a list of four suitors for the embattled supplier is expected to be reduced to two following a meeting in New York or Detroit at the end of this month.
All 15 of Takata's major customers, including the Detroit 3, Takata executives and its advisory firm Lazard Ltd. and bidders are expected to determine the future of the Japanese supplier, a source familiar with the bidding told Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News.
The meetings are expected to be in New York, but executives from the local automakers asked last week to move the agenda to metro Detroit.
Suitors for the Tokyo-based supplier of seatbelts and airbags include Michigan-based competitor Key Safety Systems Inc.; Daicel, a Japanese manufacturer of airbag inflators that's jointly bidding with private equity firm Bain Capital; Urbana, Ill.-based supplier Flex 'N Gate and Swedish airbag maker Autoliv Inc., according to Bloomberg reports and the source familiar with the matter.
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