Takata airbag situation is worse than first thought, recalls expected for newer model cars

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NEW YORK — The recall of deadly Takata airbags is expanding to more recent car models, which means millions of additional drivers and passengers could be at risk.

So far, more than 20 million cars have been recalled due to the risk of violent airbag explosions. But they were mostly in older cars – typically model years no later than 2008. The age of the airbags was believed to be one of the factors that made them susceptible to exploding, said federal safety regulators.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that Takata is telling the 12 affected automakers that use its airbags that more recent airbags are also at risk of exploding. So Honda, the automaker with the most defective airbags in its vehicles, has alerted dealers that it plans to recall a batch of newer cars for faulty Takata airbags.

Other automakers are likely to follow suit soon, said Gordon Trowbridge, spokesman for NHTSA.

“This will not be the last. This is just the first,” he said.

Even before this latest expansion, the Takata recall is one of the largest ever. Nine deaths in the U.S. have been tied to the exploding airbags, as well as numerous serious injuries. Shrapnel has been known to tear through the airbags and hit drivers in the face and neck.

Honda said it is not yet ready to release details of the expanded recall to the public because it’s still verifying which vehicles are involved. The notice it sent to dealers was reported by Automotive News on Wednesday. The affected models include the CR-V crossover (2007-2011), the CR-Z coupe (2011-2015) , the Fit (2009 to 2013), the Fit EV (2013 to 2014), the Insight hybrid (2010 to 2014) and the Ridgeline (2007 to 2014.)

The notice to dealers orders them to stop selling any affected cars that might be in their used car inventories. It also adds that dealers will be responsible for any lawsuits stemming from the sale of an unrepaired, affected car, according to the report. But the notice says replacement parts are currently unavailable for these newer models, and won’t be available until late summer.

The fact that the Takata recall is still growing suggests that there won’t be a solution to the problem for years to come, said Karl Brauer senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. In fact, he said, many of the roughly 1 million vehicles that have already had airbags replaced may need to have those replacement airbags replaced as well.

“The evidence indicated that it’s an inherent design flaw of the material used to inflate the bags, not just an old airbag going bad after 8 or 10 years,” said Brauer. “It’s a problem for owners, for dealers, for the automakers. There’s no good answer for any of them. There’s no fix, no easy out. It’s an expensive, time consuming mess.”