A 50-year-old woman who died after a car wreck in September in California was the 11th U.S. victim of Takata Corp.’s defective air bag inflators.
As you may remember, we have previously discussed the danger caused by GM’s decision to switch airbag suppliers from the Swedish-American company Autoliv to the much cheaper Japanese supplier, Takata.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed the woman’s death on Thursday but didn’t release her name. Up to five people also may have been killed by the air bags in Malaysia, bringing the number of deaths globally to as many as 16, as reported by the Associated Press.
The agency said the woman, identified in Riverside County, California, coroner’s records as Delia Robles, 50, of Corona, was driving a 2001 Honda Civic. Riverside police said in a statement that a man making a left turn in a Chevrolet pickup truck was hit head-on by the Civic. The woman was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she died from her injuries, the statement said.
“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of the driver during this difficult time,” Honda said in a statement.
Takata air bags can inflate with too much force, which causes a metal canister to rupture and spew shrapnel into the vehicle. Tokyo-based Takata, unlike other manufacturers, uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that inflates air bags in a crash.
But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to prolonged high heat and humidity and can burn faster than designed. That can blow apart a metal canister designed to contain the explosion.
Chris Hock, a former member of the Autoliv team, said he recalled carrying out testing on a mock ammonium nitrate inflater that produced explosive results rendering his team shaken. “When we lit it off, it totally destroyed the fixture,” he said. “It turned it into shrapnel.”
The problem touched off what is now the largest auto recall in U.S. history. More than 69 million inflators have been recalled in the U.S. and more than 100 million worldwide. Takata faces billions in costs.
In June, NHTSA urged owners of 313,000 older Hondas and Acuras to stop driving them and get them repaired, after new tests found that their Takata inflators are extremely dangerous. The agency said it had data showing that chances are as high as 50 percent that the inflators can explode in a crash.
Honda spokesman Chris Martin said about 300,000 have not been repaired, and that the owners have been difficult to reach.
Just over 1 million Hondas originally had the risky type of inflators.
NHTSA’s urgent advisory covers vehicles that are up to 16 years old including 2001 and 2002 Honda Civics and Accords, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey and CR-V, and the 2003 Acura CL and Honda Pilot, NHTSA said. They were recalled from 2008 to 2011, and about 70 percent of them already have been repaired, the agency said.
Honda says it has sufficient supplies of replacement air bags for owners who still need them.
The older the inflators are, and the more time they spend in heat and humidity, the more likely they are to malfunction.
The government urged people to go to safercar.gov and enter their vehicle identification number to see if their car or truck is being recalled.
Thank you to the Associated Press for distribution of this news release.
Affected Automakers: BMW, Chrystler, Mazda, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Jaguar, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, G.M. and Ferrari.
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