TOKYO (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co (7267.T) said on Thursday that a driver in Malaysia died in July after being hit by shrapnel from an air bag supplied by Takata Corp 7312.T - the fifth such fatality and the first outside the United States.
The Japanese automaker also widened its recall for the defective air bags by another 170,000 vehicles globally, taking its total recalls to nearly 10 million vehicles fitted with potentially defective Takata air bag inflators since 2008, including U.S. region-specific recalls.
Before Thursday’s disclosure, Takata air bags had been linked to four deaths in Honda vehicles in the United States. All the victims were hit by shrapnel ejected by the air bag.
Defective Takata air bags are the target of a U.S. safety investigation over the risk they could explode with dangerous force in an accident and shoot metal shards into the vehicle. More than 17 million vehicles made by nearly a dozen different automakers have been recalled globally for flawed Takata air bags since 2008.
In the Malaysia accident on July 27, involving a 2003 Honda City model, the air bag inflator ruptured and sent shrapnel into the vehicle, some of which struck the female driver, Honda said.
Honda did not give the driver’s name or age.
Honda learned of the incident on Aug. 27 and notified Japan’s transport ministry on Sept. 10.
Honda said the Takata air bag inflator that failed in the Malaysia accident had likely been exposed to excessive moisture at the supplier’s now-shuttered plant in La Grange, Georgia.
The expanded recall covers all Honda cars equipped with air bag inflators of the same specification made between November 2001 and November 2003 on the problematic section of a line at that plant, Honda said.
A Takata spokeswoman declined to say whether other car makers could be affected by the same problem, while Japan’s transport ministry said it was looking into that.
“We’re working under the assumption that this affects others,” said Masato Sahashi, director of the recall enforcement office at the ministry. “There’s a possibility they were supplying the inflators to other companies during that period, so we’re investigating that.”
Honda said it was recalling five models as part of a widening campaign, including the Fit and Civic. None of the affected models were sold in North America.
Additional reporting by Mari Saito; Writing by Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Ian Geoghegan