honda-city-2003

A Malaysian woman was killed in a collision in July involving her 2003 Honda City which contained a defective airbag, Honda Motor Co confirmed today. The problematic safety component manufactured by Japanese parts maker Takata Corp has been at the centre of a series of massive recalls worldwide since the issue surfaced in 2008.

The improperly-manufactured airbag inflator ruptured in the accident, which sent shrapnel flying inside the car, some of which hit the driver. Honda is currently conducting an investigation to find out if the airbag was the cause of the death. If so, this would be at least the fifth such incident, and the first outside the United States.

Honda has also widened its ongoing worldwide recall involving the aforementioned airbag inflator to include another 170,000 units of the Jazz, City and Civic in Asia and Europe, bringing the total number of cars affected by Takata’s exploding airbag recall to 14.3 million, 6.2 million of which are Hondas. At the moment, it is unclear which exact model years are being recalled.

The problem on the latest recall – the 10th announced by Honda so far – has been traced to a conveyor at Takata’s now-defunct US plant in LaGrange, Georgia which had malfunctioned, exposing the propellant tablets left on the belt to moisture. Such moisture could cause the explosives to become unstable, detonating with excessive force during a collision.

The 2003 Honda City model (like the one involved in the fatal accident) was already included in Honda Malaysia’s recall over the same issue in June, along with the 2001-2003 Stream, 2002-2003 Jazz and 2003 Accord. Last year, UMW Toyota recalled 18,700 units of the 2000-2003 Camry and Corolla Altis, while Edaran Tan Chong Motor (ETCM) recalled four units of the CBU first-generation Nissan X-Trail.

Takata’s airbags are the focus of a US regulatory probe amidst global vehicle recalls over the past six years, and have been linked to at least four deaths in the US and several injuries. According to a recent Reuters report, Takata has changed the composition of its airbag propellant, and this updated mix is used in replacement airbags fitted to recalled cars.

If you own any of the cars affected, it is imperative to send them in to be repaired as soon as possible, and to stay away from the front passenger seat until the issue has been resolved.

Further reading:

Takata changes composition of airbag propellant, denies defects in original composition – report
Takata to be prosecuted in the US over exploding airbags, owners urged to fix affected cars immediately