A staff member of Japanese car parts maker Takata holds a signboard at the company’s annual general meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on June 27 2017, following the company’s filing for bankruptcy protection. File picture: REUTERS
A staff member of Japanese car parts maker Takata holds a signboard at the company’s annual general meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on June 27 2017, following the company’s filing for bankruptcy protection. File picture: REUTERS

Washington — Ford said on Thursday that it had confirmed a second death in an older pick-up truck caused by a defective airbag inflator of Takata, and urged 2,900 owners in North America to stop driving immediately until they could get replacement parts.

The second-largest US vehicle maker said it confirmed in late December that a July 2017 crash death in West Virginia in a 2006 Ford Ranger was caused by a defective Takata inflator. It previously reported a similar death in South Carolina that occurred in December 2015.

Ford said both Takata deaths occurred with inflators built on the same day installed in 2006 Ranger pick-ups. At least 21 deaths worldwide are linked to the Takata inflators that can rupture and send deadly metal fragments inside vehicles. The faulty inflators have led to the largest automotive recall in history. The other 19 deaths have occurred in Honda vehicles, most of which were in the US.

Ford issued a new recall for vehicles that had been previously recalled in 2016.

Of the 391,000-plus 2004-06 Ranger vehicles recalled at the time, the new recall announced on Thursday affects 2,900 vehicles. These include 2,700 in the US and nearly 200 in Canada. The new recall will allow for identification of the 2,900 owners in the highest risk pool.

A Mazda spokesperson said on Thursday that the company would conduct a similar recall and stop-drive warning for some 2006 Mazda B-Series trucks, which were built by Ford and were similar to the Ranger.

Japanese vehicle supplier Takata plans to sell its viable operations to Key Safety Systems, an affiliate of China’s Ningo Joyson Electric, for $1.6bn.

A Takata spokesperson said the company would make all attempts to ensure it could deliver replacement inflators as soon as possible.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urged owners to heed Ford’s warning. "It is extremely important that all high-risk air bags are tracked down and replaced immediately," NHTSA spokesperson Karen Aldana said.

‘Failed recall’

Ford said it would pay to have vehicles towed to dealerships or send mobile repair teams to owners’ homes and provide free loan vehicles if needed.

Takata said in June that it had recalled, or expected to recall, about 125-million vehicles worldwide by 2019, including more than 60-million in the US. About 19-vehicle makers worldwide are affected.

Takata inflators can explode with excessive force, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks and have injured more than 200. The defect led Takata to file for bankruptcy protection in June.

In 2017, prosecutors in Detroit charged three former senior Takata executives with falsifying test results to conceal the inflator defect. None have come to the US to face charges.

Last year, Takata pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was ordered to pay a total of $1bn in criminal penalties in a US court in connection with the recalls.

Vehicle makers have struggled to get enough replacement parts for the massive recalls. A November NHTSA report said about two-thirds of US vehicles recalled had not yet been repaired.

Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement on Thursday that the latest death was evidence of "the very definition of a failed recall" pointing to the earlier Ford death in 2015.

NHTSA must do more, he said, to make the recall a priority. In November, NHTSA rejected a petition from Ford to delay recalling three-million vehicles with potentially defective airbag inflators to conduct additional testing.

In June 2016, NHTSA warned that airbag inflators on more than 300,000 unrepaired recalled 2001-03 model year Honda vehicles showed a substantial risk of rupturing, and urged owners to stop driving them until getting them fixed. NHTSA said that they had as high as a 50% chance of a rupture in a crash.

Reuters