WASHINGTON — Owners of 313,000 2001-'03 Honda and Acura vehicles are being urged by federal safety regulators to stop driving the vehicles and get to dealers immediately to have defective Takata airbags replaced.
New tests have shown that certain Takata airbags have a 50 percent chance of exploding when deployed in an accident, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The exploding airbags can shoot metal shrapnel at vehicle occupants, potentially causing serious injury or death.
"These vehicles are unsafe and need to be repaired immediately," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement on Thursday. "Folks should not drive these vehicles unless they are going straight to a dealer to have them repaired immediately, free of charge."
The higher-risk airbag inflators are in these vehicles:
- 2001-'02 Honda Civic
- 2001-'02 Honda Accord
- 2002-'03 Acura TL
- 2002 Honda CR-V
- 2002 Honda Odyssey
- 2003 Acura CL
- 2003 Honda Pilot
Federal safety regulators said the ruptures are far more likely in vehicles that have spent "significant time" in areas of high absolute humidity, including Florida, Texas, other parts of the Gulf Coast and Southern California.
The affected vehicles were recalled between 2008 and 2011.
NHTSA said more than 70 percent of them have been repaired, but approximately 313,000 vehicles "with this very dangerous defect remain unrepaired."
"The risk posed by the airbag inflators in these vehicles is grave," NHTSA said.
Honda said it concurs with the recommendation that the affected vehicles "should only be driven to a dealer in order to have their Takata airbag inflators replaced as rapidly as possible."
"There is an abundant supply of replacement inflators and the repair is free of charge and can be completed quickly," Honda said in a statement.
The warning was issued after the so-called "Alpha" inflators taken from recalled 2001-'03 Honda and Acura vehicles in Florida were returned to Takata and subjected to laboratory testing recently.
"Good grief, as we head into the busiest driving weekend of the year with July 4th, folks are still on the road with ticking time bombs in their dashboards," said Fred Upton, U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman (R-MI) in a statement. "NHTSA's announcement is further proof that more needs to be done to get these vehicles off the road and up to par. We will keep calling on all parties to do everything they can to make these cars safe, once and for all."