Texas Teen Is 10th U.S. Death Linked to Takata Airbag

By Jeff Plungis | April 11, 2016

A 10th person has died in a crash in the U.S. involving a ruptured Takata Corp. airbag inflator, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A 17-year-old woman died from injuries sustained in a March 31 crash in Fort Bend County, Texas, NHTSA said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. Worldwide, 11 deaths have been linked to the airbags.

The victim’s 2002 Honda Civic collided with another vehicle, activating the airbags, NHTSA said. A subsequent investigation revealed that the car had been recalled in 2011 but hadn’t had the defect repaired, the agency said.

“NHTSA is renewing its call to all auto manufacturers involved in the Takata airbag recall to intensify and expand their outreach to affected vehicle owners,” agency spokesman Bryan Thomas said.

Takata has estimated a comprehensive callback of its airbag inflators would total about total about $24 billion, a person familiar with the matter said March 30, or four times more than Tokyo-based company’s annual revenue. The figure is about $7 billion more than what Jefferies Group LLC assessed in a February report. Takata said in a statement it’s still investigating the root cause and can’t accurately project its final costs.

NHTSA said March 31 it won’t take Takata’s financial viability into account when deciding whether to expand the largest-ever U.S. automotive recall. A total of 7.5 million airbags, or 33 percent of those recalled, have been repaired as of March 11, according to the regulator.

Takata’s shares fell as much as 4.3 percent to a record intraday low of 337 yen as of 9:10 a.m. in Tokyo trading. The benchmark Topix index was little changed.

High Humidity

The car had been registered in the high-humidity Gulf Coast region its entire life, NHTSA said.

Honda Motor Co. said in a statement that it’s shared all available vehicle history information collected to date with NHTSA and will continue to cooperate with NHTSA throughout the process of investigating this crash.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of the driver during this difficult time,” the company said in the statement.

There are currently 28.8 million airbag inflators under recall, according to NHTSA. The agency has ordered vehicle manufacturers to target cars with the highest risks for repairs first. Vehicle age and exposure to high humidity for a prolonged period of time are two of the biggest risk factors, the agency has said.

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