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First Takata-Airbag-Related Death Outside of U.S. Spurs Another Recall

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A pregnant woman was driving a 2003 Honda Civic in Malaysia in July 2014, when she crashed into another vehicle. Her car had a Takata airbag on the driver’s side. It allegedly deployed improperly, shooting out shrapnel and killing the woman and her unborn baby.

According to the New York Times, this is the fifth death associated with defective Takata airbags. In response to the incident, Honda implemented another recall of about 170,000 vehicles in Europe and Asia. All of those vehicles are equipped with Takata airbags that can potentially explode during an accident, causing serious injury and possibly death.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urged car owners on October 22, 2014, to be sure to respond to recall notices and get these airbags replaced.

Years of Takata Airbag Recalls

In 2001, Takata issued a recall of selected Isuzu vehicles that contained potentially defective airbags. Thirteen years have gone by, and still these airbags are causing injuries. Honda, Nissan, and other car makers have gradually become aware of the issue and have issued other recall notices, as have BMW, Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, and Toyota.

This accident in Malaysia is thought to be the first to cause a Takata-airbag-related death outside the United States. The airbag was manufactured in a Georgia factory that is no longer in operation. Other defective airbags have been made in Takata plants in Washington State and Mexico.

The Times notes that this most recent recall brings the total number of vehicles recalled because of Takata airbags to 14.3 million worldwide.

Takata May Not Be Able to Meet Demand for Replacements

As to whether Takata will be able to keep up with demand for replacement parts remains to be seen. As with GM, which has been slow to make repairs in some parts of the country for its ignition switch defect, Takata may not be able to meet demand quickly enough, a Takata representative recently told U.S. Senators.

Right now, the company is focusing its recalls on humid areas of the country, like Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. That decision was based on recent tests that showed humid conditions could cause defective bags to absorb too much moisture, triggering a rupture upon deployment.

Critics and some Congressmen have called for the company to expand the recalls to all states. Takata argues that to do so could overtax its ability to meet demand, and could divert replacement parts away from those regions most at risk.

Company Under Fire for Slow Response

According to CNN, on November 20, 2014, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing to address Takata’s inadequate response to the defect. The company also faces a criminal probe and probe by the NHTSA.