A U.S. senator who heard testimony last month on the recall of Takata automotive air bags, which have sprayed shrapnel that has killed 22 people and injured hundreds more, is continuing to put pressure on Honda Motor Co. about its efforts to track down the most dangerous of the air bags.
Honda acknowledged in communication with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last month that 62,307 people continue to drive with air bags that were tainted by high humidity at a Takata factory in Monclova, Mexico, before they were installed in Honda or Acura vehicles. While most Takata inflators go bad over time when exposed to temperature changes and humidity, these “Alpha” inflators have been given the highest priority in the recall effort, and Honda said that more than a million of them have been replaced.
“Takata air bag inflators known as ‘alphas’ installed in certain 2001, 2002 and 2003 Honda and Acura models have been shown to pose a 50 percent risk of rupture when the air bags deploy. According to Honda, more than 60,000 vehicles still contain alpha inflators,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wrote in a letter Wednesday to Honda Vice President Rick Schostek. “Given the significant public safety threat caused by these defective parts, the removal of all alpha inflators from America’s roads must be an immediate priority.”
Schostek testified before the commerce committee, of which Klobuchar is a member, last month that Honda has made unprecedented efforts to contact the more than 60,000 customers with Alpha bags, and all other Honda drivers with the dangerous Takata air bags. He said Honda’s efforts included a door-to-door campaign to alert owners, a canvassing recommended by John D. Buretta, who was appointed as an independent monitor to oversee the Takata recall.
Overall, the recall is the largest in U.S. history, involving more than 37 million vehicles built by 19 automakers.
Klobuchar, who has been involved with the Takata recall for several years, wrote Schostek three days after a Washington Post article describing the recall effort.
Takata, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, reached a $650 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in February for criminal misconduct involving an alleged coverup of testing which uncovered the defect. As part of the settlement, Takata paid a $25 million criminal penalty and $850 million in restitution to automakers. The company also established a $125 million compensation fund for motorists harmed by the air bags.
Drivers can determine whether their vehicle is under recall by checking the vehicle identification number, which is on the dash board just inside the windshield, and visiting the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration website at www.nhtsa.gov/recalls. A list of the models under recall can be accessed here.