By on February 10, 2010

Honda said it will recall another roughly 378,000 vehicles in the U.S. to fix potentially faulty airbag systems that are linked to at least one known fatality and 11 injuries in the U.S., says the Nikkei [sub].

That brings the number of airbag-related recalled Honda and Acura models to more than 826,000. Honda said some airbags in its older vehicles deploy with too much pressure, and send metal fragments flying into the car.

In a separate announcement Wednesday in Tokyo, Honda said that the additional number of cars that it will recall due to this airbag problem totals 437,763 vehicles globally including 378,758 in the U.S., 41,685 vehicles in Canada, 9,227 in Mexico, 4,042 in Japan, 1,361 in Taiwan and 703 in Australia.

The affected airbag systems are primarily found in 2001 and 2002 Accords, Civics, Odysseys, CR-Vs and certain Acura models from those years.

John Mendel, American Honda’s executive vice president of sales, said the company’s decision to expand the earlier recall was driven in part by the current concern over safety issues raised by Toyota’s recent recalls. “There’s certainly a heightened sensitivity right now to anything to do with recalls,” he said. “We were particularly concerned that this will not look like we were trying to duck under the screen.” Expect similar reactions from other car makers. Total Recall, The Sequel.

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35 Comments on “Boom: Honda Recalls Killer Airbags...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Any word on if the schrapnel was a cost-saving way to eliminate the deflation vents from the textile portion of the airbag system is there?

    A friend used to suggest that a spike be mounted on every steering wheel hub in order for the driver to better understand the consequences of having a crash; until now, I never thought this idea had gained traction anywhere.

    On a more serious note:
    “There’s certainly a heightened sensitivity right now to anything to do with recalls,” he said. “We were particularly concerned that this will not look like we were trying to duck under the screen.”

    You’re right Bertel; serious OEM have no time now for schadenfreude as they are busy being circumspect. Right now, any OEM without a CEO-mandated-team reviewing, ranking, and proposing plans for accelerated recall of hi-impact safety issues is setting themselves up for the same kind of pillorying Toyota is receiving.

    p.s. I’m wondering when one of the “driver’s always wrong” posters will show up and make statements to the effect of “if people knew how to operate a car, and react to every possible condition under the sun, they could pull the pedal back with their foot, they could shift to neutral, they wouldn’t need airbags, or fear their deployment, the car is never wrong” baloney.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The driver’s always wrong. :)

      No, in this case the driver being at fault is pretty much indefensible. You can make some argument about the media hysteria versus the actual risk in Toyota’s SUA cases, but this is ironclad.

      I would be interested to see what plays out when consumers start expecting non-safety-related defects to be subject to recall. There’s blood in the water now, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NHTSA and the like frog-marched into investigating things like epidemic engine sludging, head gasket failure and such. I think people are going to expect it.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      “A friend used to suggest that a spike be mounted on every steering wheel hub in order for the driver to better understand the consequences of having a crash; until now, I never thought this idea had gained traction anywhere.”

      The collapsible steering column and padded steering wheel hubs didn’t become law until 1967. Before that, the shaft connecting the wheel to the steering box was effectively a spike pointed at the driver. When the driver hit the steering wheel and it broke, the spokes on some steering wheels became pretty effective spikes as well. I assume you mean a spike that is obvious to the driver at all times though.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Oh, no, I’m not talking about what was done away with under fmvss 203 & 204, I’m speaking about a big-honking spike like the Kaiser had on the top of his helmet!!

    • 0 avatar
      Sutures

      “p.s. I’m wondering when one of the “driver’s always wrong” posters will show up and make statements to the effect of “if people knew how to operate a car, and react to every possible condition under the sun, they could pull the pedal back with their foot,they could shift to neutral, they wouldn’t need airbags, or fear their deployment, the car is never wrong” baloney.”

      This may be a knee-jerk reaction, but to avoid being wrangled into that corral, I shall add this rebuttal:

      I never implied that the driver should be able to automatically react to a sudden acceleration event by pulling back on the pedal. My argument was an attempt to say that, statistically, there should have been at least one report of a driver doing so. To reiterate, if the pedal is sticking, someone should have noted that the pedal was physically stuck. We have none of those, not even a second hand account. Instead, we have a report that a vehicle was driven to the dealership with the engine at wide open throttle and the pedal being freely movable.

      I still say the pedal recall is not the fix it is being sold as…

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    First huge Toyota safety recalls, now a rather large one over at Honda.

    As a longtime Nissan owner I’m wondering how long before the last of the “Japanese Big 3″ takes its turn. If Nissan was diligent and manages to be immune from safety recalls, I promise not to engage in schadenfreude with my Toyota- and Honda-owning friends who maintain that I drive a second-tier Japanese-branded vehicle.

    Kudos to Bertel for teaching this 45-year-old a cool, new word (“schadenfreude”) through TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      rtt108

      Maybe there can be a TTAC “Word of the Day” series, like the “Curbside Classics”:

      Perhaps it’s time to adjust our “Weltanschauung” regarding cars.

      ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Safety-related recalls can happen to anyone, and aren’t really indicative of reliability.

      Take, for example, the Nissan Quest. :)

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      Nissan has had plenty of recalls over the years. For example, the precatalyst on 2002-2006 Altimas was recalled because it can get sucked into the exhaust valves and destroy the engine, but there are numerous reports of people who have had the recall performed and still experienced the issue.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Sorry guys…I really didn’t mean to sound smug about Nissan, and certainly don’t think they’re immune from safety recalls.

      psarhjinian: How many vehicles were involved in the Quest recall, and what was the issue? It just didn’t seem to register in the public’s consciousness as the current Toyota issue(s) is/are.

      segfault: Was the Altima engine issue covered under a safety recall, or a “manufacturer’s campaign” to address a known reliability issue that is not primarily safety-related?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I thought I was the schadenfreude-guy?!

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Robert, if you are indeed the original “schadenfreude guy” and I have failed on your part by virtue of oversight, I hereby offer you my special, limited edition double kudos with a side order of mea culpa!

      (Offer not transferable; void where prohibited. Recipients must be a legal resident of the United States and a licensed driver age 18 or older. Your mileage may vary.)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      How many vehicles were involved in the Quest recall, and what was the issue? It just didn’t seem to register in the public’s consciousness as the current Toyota issue(s) is/are.

      That was my point: the Quest wasn’t recalled, it was just statistically unreliable. Just because you haven’t had to do a safety recall doesn’t mean you make a good product: your product would be insipid, underperforming, unreliable and expensive, but as long as it doesn’t actually kill or maim someone the manufacturer doesn’t have to do anything.

      I’d like to note that the cars that got the American marques into trouble weren’t deathtraps, they were money-pits.

      I would argue that this kind of stuff is on the public’s mind, just not in the same way. The media is trying really hard to conflate the two issues because it makes a good story, but they can’t outright say it because, well, they’d be wrong. They can only infer and dramatize.

  • avatar
    Roxer

    if people knew how to operate a car, and react to every possible condition under the sun, they could pull the pedal back with their foot, they could shift to neutral, they wouldn’t need airbags, or fear their deployment, the car is never wrong

    It wasn’t me!

    I think this entire recall saga will just make recalls more in the public eye. They were important before, but now since nothing else in the news is big and exciting – this will stick around for years and years to come.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      I don’t foresee long-term heightened public awareness of recalls.

      I’ve been following the automotive press (and mainstream media coverage of the auto industry) since my teens. It seems like every 10 to 15 years or so the media takes up auto safety as a cause du jour, recalls ensue and the issue fades away for several years.

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      I don’t call “putting the car into neutral” as one of the every possible conditions under the sun. It is the way to disconnect the power source from the drive wheels. You are required to point the steering wheel in the correct direction to avoid stationary objects. You are required to press the brake to avoid hitting stationary objects. Moving the gear selector to neutral is not a every day maneuver but it is one more action you should be prepared to do.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Hmmm, no mention on what the fix will be.

    This could be expensive. Has anyone priced the replacement of airbags lately?

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Honda’s not going to pay the same price as the retail customer.

      Recall from the Toyota/CTS accelerator pedal assembly discussions on TTAC: Toyota revealed that their cost was $15, but the retail price at your dealership’s parts counter is over $100.

  • avatar
    rtt108

    I can’t say this particular Honda recall has me all that concerned. Cars are complex. All cars have occasional problem areas. That’s life. And in this case, this is not a new recall. As far as I understand Honda made a recall last summer for these faulty airbag inflators. They are just expanding the recall either to be on the safe side (PR wise) or because they determined more inflators were possibly faulty. One web site I read says they isolated the cause to be one stamping machine at a supplier site in Japan … Takata?? Something like that.

    ( BTW, I’m not making light of the seriousness of this recall. A relative was a victim. She was in a wreck, the airbag exploded and she took shrapnel to the face. She was seriously injured, but is okay now. If your car is covered by this recall, get it fixed ! )

    And yes, the Honda FIT window switches can short out of I pour my coffee into the switch assembly … big deal.

    I used to drive nothing but Fords. They had thier own issues. I’d still consider another one.

    What has me concerned about the Toyota situation at the moment is the sheer number of problems that have come out recently. Whether recalls, or just NHTSA investigations …

    - Prius brake software
    - Stuck accelerator pedals (possibly ECU issues?)
    - Corolla electric steering bugs
    - engine sludge (from a couple of years back)
    - Camry transmisisons
    - ECU failures causing the engine to quit in older Corolla/Matrix
    - Matrix 5-spd manuals eating bearings by about 60K mi
    - Matrix XRs 5-spd manuals eating clutches

    … Im sure I can come up with a few more if I think about it.

    No matter. But the game seems to have changed. I don’t think I’ll rely quite as much on a companies reputation the next time I buy a car. I think I’ll have to sit down and do a lot more research before just buying something.

    My 05 Civic is certainly not nearly as well made as my 93 Civic. I’ll be a lot more critical before just buying another Civic.

  • avatar
    tced2

    The average Joe thinks of air bags as feather pillows. They’re not. They’re carefully placed small explosives that briefly cushion the human from contact with hard parts of the car. They only work for a very brief period. They only work for a crash in the direction from which they were designed (primarily front and side collisions). They don’t keep you in place and in the car in rollover, spinning, or multiple collision accidents that happen over a longer period of time. A $10 seat belt does a much better job for that.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      You mean you still need to wear a seatbelt in a car with airbags?! I’m kidding of course, but I was shocked when someone I was talking to several years ago said they should repeal seatbelt laws because cars have airbags now.

      I’ve seen some video of crash tests of airbag-equipped cars with dummies not wearing their seatbelts. In one case the dummy’s chest was collapsed. In another, the head was fired up through the windshield and decapitated.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      OOPO is the bane and the source of job-security for every restraint engineer.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    I’ve never liked the idea of having little grenades embedded in my car waiting to go off. Now it appears they are not the harmless smoke grenades manufacturers want you think they are, but the real deal!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Airbags actually do save lives, but yes, used improperly they’re a danger. Considering the number of warning stickers for them that are scattered throughout the car (the carseated baby with broken neck pictograms are really charming) this ought not to be a surprise to drivers.

      Heck, there have been recalls because the sticker was missing, not serious enough or (in Canada) not in French.

      I’ve gotten burns on my wrists from the airbag’s deployment, and I’ll agree they’re serious business. They’re only supposed to come into play when you’re in an accident more serious than your safety belts can handle, and in those situations I’d sooner hit the bag than the dash, wheel, pillar or window.

    • 0 avatar
      rtt108

      A number of years ago a friend fell asleep at the wheel and went off the road. He hit a bridge abutment at ~ 70mph. He’s alive today because of airbags.

      I thought statistically they do save lives … but I don’t have any statistics to point to, so that’s just my impression at the moment.

      Nothing is certain in life. Airbags do work very well in the right conditions, they can also cause harm if they malfunction. Everything is a tradeoff. All things considered, I think having airbags is more of an advantage than not.

    • 0 avatar
      MidLifeCelica

      Re-reading my post, I see I should have put a smiley face or a /sarcasm tag on it!

      Before airbags existed, I was in an accident where a pickup ran a red light and T-boned my driver-side door at 40 mph. I was completely un-injured, which I attributed to three things : My lap/shoulder belt, which locked on impact, holding me firmly in my aftermarket Scheel seat with leg,side, and head bolsters, and the fact that my car at the time was a big old chunk of American steel. Airbags seemed to be a tacked on nanny system to coddle people to lazy to wear seatbelts and jack up the price of new cars.

      Now belt systems no longer lock, but tighten over the lap while the shoulder harness reels out under tension to let the occupant hit the bag more slowly, spreading out the deceleration time which is all good. Probably reduces the risk of internal injuries since our insides aren’t restrained. So I have changed my opinion of them over the years from evil nuisance to helpful nuisance…

  • avatar

    Hmm, I’ll take the unintended acceleration over the flying airbag shrapnel.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I don’t want to wander too far from the subject at hand but I hope the TTAC will indulge me. Has anyone ever seen the YouTube video of a guy in a convertible Mercedes, honking at the old lady? She swats the front of his car with her shopping bag and the driver’s airbag deploys. Is that possible?

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      No Amigo, or you would be hearing about it happening every other day. But I do know they’ve redesigned the sensors over the years to be less sensitive to things like trucks plowing snow and the like. Of course don’t forget that the thrust of the explosion has been reduced a bit over the years.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      In 1956, Ford incorporated a number of forward-looking safety features, bundled-together under the name “Lifeguard”, this marketing campaign flopped in comparison to Chevrolet’s offering more horsepower (and Chevy’s insinuating that Ford could only need safety features because it was unsafe to begin with.) Lee Iacocca learned a lesson from this, and vowed never again to “sell” safety … but then Chrysler became the first in 1990 with standard driver’s side airbags … I was hired into my post-graduate job by the guy that had the job of convincing Iacocca that these devices would be reliable … he, an engineering supervisor, and Iacocca met at the Chrysler PG, and proceeded to drive over and into everything possible to demonstrate that the sensors, software, and airbags were stable and predictable (not to go off unless in a crash) … at the end of the exercise, Iacocca agreed to approve the technology.

    • 0 avatar
      YZS

      WTF, they had a fresh grad on hand but still crash tested on themselves? I wouldn’t trust these people to design my airbag for me.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    “That brings the number of airbag-related recalled Honda and Acura models to more than 826,000″

    Spoke too soon. Yeah, this is going to hurt. With Honda AND Toyota doing these recalls you really start to, you know, have doubts. It’s going to take some very, very hard work now for these Japanese companies to get back on track. The Japanese can be very innovative, clever and perceptive…

    I’ll be watching Mazda, Nissan and Subaru closely.

  • avatar
    westhighgoalie

    WOW! Hand Grenade laden air bags.

    Glad my Honda isn’t on this list. At least not yet.

  • avatar

    I have always thought that rather than mandating air bags, the feds should have mandated crash protection standards and let the engineers figure out how best to do it. WE might have had competition between more elaborate and better seat belts/harnesses, and air bags. The seat belt/harness combos would probably have been cheaper, and maybe less tradeoff.


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