By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co said on Thursday it had confirmed a second death in an older pickup truck caused by a defective airbag inflator of Takata Corp and urged 2,900 owners in North America to stop driving immediately until they can get replacement parts.
The second largest U.S. automaker 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 pickups. 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 Motor Co vehicles, most of which were in the United States.
Ford issued a new recall for automobiles that had been previously recalled in 2016.
Of the 391,000-plus 2004-2006 Ranger vehicles recalled at the time, the new recall announced on Thursday affects 2,900 vehicles. These include 2,700 in the United States and nearly 200 in Canada. The new recall will allow for identification of the 2,900 owners in the highest risk pool.
A Mazda Motor Corp spokeswoman said on Thursday the company would conduct a similar recall and stop-drive warning for some 2006 Mazda B-Series trucks, which were built by Ford and are similar to the Ranger.
Japanese auto supplier Takata plans to sell its viable operations to Key Safety Systems, an affiliate of China’s Ningo Joyson Electric Corp, for $1.6 billion.
A Takata spokesman said the company will make all attempts to ensure it can deliver replacement inflators as soon as possible.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged owners to heed Ford’s warning. “It is extremely important that all high-risk air bags are tracked down and replaced immediately,” NHTSA spokeswoman Karen Aldana said.
Ford said it would pay to have vehicles towed to dealerships or send mobile repair teams to owners’ homes and provide free loaner vehicles if needed.
Takata said in June that it has recalled, or expected to recall, about 125 million vehicles worldwide by 2019, including more than 60 million in the United States. Some 19 automakers worldwide are impacted.
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 United States to face charges.
Last year, Takata pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was subject to pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties in a U.S. court in connection with the recalls.
Automakers have struggled to get enough replacement parts for the massive recalls. A November NHTSA report said about two-thirds of U.S. vehicles recalled have not yet been repaired.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement on Thursday the latest death is 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 3 million vehicles with potentially defective airbag inflators to conduct additional testing.
In June 2016, NHTSA warned airbag inflators on more than 300,000 unrepaired recalled 2001-2003 model year Honda vehicles showed a substantial risk of rupturing, and urged owners to stop driving them until getting them fixed. NHTSA said they have as high as a 50 percent chance of a rupture in a crash.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Minami Funakoshi in TOKYO; Editing by Diane Craft and Muralikumar Anantharaman)