Texas teen is 10th US fatality linked to ruptured Takata air bag

Technician Edward Bonilla holds a recalled Takata airbag inflator after he removed it from a Honda Pilot.
Technician Edward Bonilla holds a recalled Takata airbag inflator after he removed it from a Honda Pilot. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - A 10th person has died in a crash in the US involving a ruptured Takata Corp air-bag inflator, according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) .

A 17-year-old girl died from injuries sustained in a March 31 crash in Fort Bend County, Texas, NHTSA said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday (April 6). Worldwide, 11 deaths have been linked to the air bags.

The victim's 2002 Honda Civic collided with another vehicle, activating the air bags, 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 air-bag 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 US$24 billion (S$32.5 billion), or four times more than the Tokyo-based company's annual revenue, a person familiar with the matter said.

The figure is about US$7 billion more than what Jefferies Group LLC assessed in a February report.

Takata said in a statement that it's still investigating the root cause and can't accurately project its final costs.

NHTSA said on March 31 that it won't take Takata's financial viability into account when deciding whether to expand the largest-ever US automotive recall. A total of 7.5 million air bags, or 33 per cent of those recalled, have been repaired as of March 11, according to the regulator.

In the latest crash, 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 air-bag 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.