LOS ANGELES -- Despite an aggressive and far-reaching effort to recall and repair vehicles with potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators, Honda disclosed last week that yet another driver had been injured by one in a crash.
The convoluted timeline of how a defective inflator ended up in a 2002 Accord that had been successfully repaired twice under recall shows the challenge Honda and other automakers still face in rooting out the defective parts -- and keeping them out.
The crash reported by Honda last week occurred March 3 in Las Vegas. The driver suffered a punctured trachea and is expected to live.
The inflator that ruptured in the crash was from the first wave of affected "Alpha" modules, the kind blamed in eight of 10 U.S. deaths involving inflators in Honda vehicles. Last June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found these inflators, used from 2001 to 2003, had a rupture rate as high as 50 percent.
But the car itself had had its inflators swapped out under recall first in February 2012 and then again in January 2015, both times by Honda dealerships, the automaker said.
Within months of the second repair, the vehicle was totaled. A year later it was resold as a salvage title to its current owner. Honda records show that prior to this April 2016 sale, the car was fitted with an Alpha inflator from a 2001 Accord.
The automaker believes the inflator was likely pulled from a salvage yard, against Honda's strict directive to avoid this practice.
That a junkyard would sell faulty inflators -- and reintroduce a defect to cars that had already been repaired -- hasn't escaped Honda's attention. In an effort to prevent this, Honda said it has bought more than 60,000 inflators from salvage resellers in the past two years.
Federal regulations currently prohibit anyone from selling defective auto parts for use in repairs, but the rules are largely unenforced because it's virtually impossible to track the source of a defective part.
To date, Honda has replaced Alpha inflators in about 794,000 Honda and Acura vehicles; 275,000 vehicles remain unfixed. Accounting for them is a particular concern to Honda since it believes a majority of the vehicles aren't on the road anymore.