Automakers are responsible for Takata air bag recalls: NHTSA

Wed Nov 2, 2016 11:04pm EDT
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By Joseph White

(Reuters) - Automakers have "ultimate responsibility" for the costs of replacing potentially deadly Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) airbags, no matter what happens to the Japanese supplier, the top U.S. vehicle safety regulator said on Wednesday.

Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told reporters in Detroit he is concerned that not enough is being done to find and fix more than 300,000 older vehicles, mostly made by Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote), that have Takata airbags with a 50 percent chance of exploding in a crash.

Honda said it continues to explore and evaluate new methods of convincing owners of vehicles affected by Takata airbag inflator recalls to complete the necessary repairs.

Honda associates have started conducting targeted home visits to owners of the older-model 2001-2003 vehicles that the NHTSA has determined are at the highest risk of experiencing a Takata inflator rupture, Honda said in a statement to Reuters.

Takata is seeking a buyer, amid speculation the company could seek bankruptcy protection as part of a deal. Rosekind said his agency believes it has "several layers of protection" to assure that recalls of up to 70 million potentially defective Takata airbag inflators are completed as agreed with the company.

Automakers worldwide are ramping up the industry's biggest-ever recall after Takata, under pressure from U.S. authorities, agreed earlier this year to declare more of its air bags as defective in the United States and other countries.

U.S. safety regulators have linked 11 deaths in the United States to Takata airbags that ruptured, sending metal shrapnel flying inside vehicles. The most-recent reported U.S. fatality was of a 50-year-old woman who died in a 2001 Honda Civic after a Sept. 30 crash in Riverside County, Calif.

Her death is one of 16 worldwide now linked to defective Takata airbag inflators and the NHTSA said the Honda Civic involved in the crash belonged to the high-risk population of vehicles the agency is targeting.   Continued...

A recalled Takata airbag inflator removed it from a Honda Pilot is shown at the AutoNation Honda dealership service department in Miami, Florida, United States on June 25, 2015.    REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo