After Hitting Toyota Hard, Takata’s Airbag Issues Spread to Honda

Source: Toyota

Last week, Toyota (NYSE:TM) recalled some 2.3 million vehicles globally over an elevated risk of airbag shrapnel in the event of an accident. If this sounds familiar, there’s a good reason why: Many of the units, produced by Takata Corp., have been recalled in the past for the same reason. And, Toyota added, there’s a good possibility that further fixes may be needed, Reuters reports. The recall affected units of the Toyota Tundra from the 2003 and 2004 model years, as well as the Corolla and Matrix from the same model years. Also included is the 2002 to 2004 model year Sequoia and the 2002 to 2004 Lexus SC 430 coupe.

In all, 766,300 of the cars and trucks were located in North America. A recall in April 2013 was intended to repair the issue, but it was later uncovered that Takata might have provided an incomplete list of potentially defective airbag units, spurring the second recall effort. Improper manufacturing processes from more than 10 years ago are being blamed as the cause, occurring at Takata’s plants in Monclava, Mexico, and Moses Lake, Washington, beginning as early as April 2000.

Were Takata supplying just Toyota, the problem might have a manageable perimeter. However, Takata is also a primary supplier for other automotive giants, among them Honda (NYSE:HMC), Nissan, Mazda, BMW, and Chrysler. While many are still analyzing what the developments mean for their vehicles, Honda is reportedly weighing a million-plus vehicle recall for related reasons, though a list of potential vehicles was not made available. 

“We are conducting investigations quickly and if we decide that there are vehicles that should be called back, we will swiftly file for a recall,” spokeswoman Akemi Ando told Reuters. Over the last five years, more than 7 million vehicles equipped with Takata-made airbag units have been recalled.

Honda’s need to expand the Takata airbag recall so many times “identifies some pretty bad process control” at both Honda and Takata, WFMY News quoted Honda spokesman Chris Martin as saying in 2011, when the latest Honda recall expansion was announced. The company said at the time that it initially was told by Takata that only a small number of vehicles were at risk, so the initial recall was limited, WFMY reports. “We were told there was this very small lot of air bags included. Then we got an expanded list, and that turned out not to be true,” Martin told the news outlet. Eventually, Honda “went really deep into Takata’s information, and now we’re recalling all that could be affected,” Martin said at the time.

The situation illustrates the risks of relying on a major Tier 1 supplier and the nature of sourcing such a crucial component that’s shared between so many vehicles. General Motors is also learning a similar lesson, with its faulty ignition switch that used a spring sourced from Delphi Automotive.

Takata said that it will be replacing all of the affected units in Toyota’s vehicles, and Honda is reportedly scheduled to alert its appropriate owners of affected vehicles before the end of the month. Takata started investigating whether there were other vehicles with potentially faulty inflators not covered by the previous recalls in January after being contacted by Toyota, a Takata spokesperson told Reuters.

Apparently, some of the explosive wafers that are used in the air bag inflator may have been exposed to excessive moisture or pressed into shape with too little force during manufacturing. When set off, there’s a risk that additional shrapnel can travel into the cabin, increasing the risk of injury or death. However, shoddy record keeping on Takata’s end makes it unclear as to how many units were affected in production. 

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