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Friday, November 21, 2014

Defective Takata Airbag Grows Into Global Problem for Manufacturer

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SIBU, Malaysia — Law Suk Leh, late in her pregnancy, was driving in the industrial outskirts of this steamy riverside city when her 2003 Honda City collided with a turning car.
Her airbag’s inflater ruptured on the July evening, spraying metal shrapnel into her neck. Ms. Law, 43, bled to death before reaching the hospital, according to the local police.
Doctors performed an emergency operation to deliver Ms. Law’s baby, a girl. But she died two days later.
Honda publicly linked the July death to the inflater last Thursday, making it the first fatality outside of the United States tied to faulty airbags made by Takata, a Japanese auto supplier.
“The cause of death for this incident is rupture of the inflater,” said a Honda spokesman in Malaysia. Ms. Law’s identity was confirmed by the police.
What began as a largely American problem for Takata is taking on ever-wider proportions, confronting drivers and regulators in multiple countries with differing legal systems and attitudes toward automobile safety.
Until the report of Ms. Law’s death, the previous four fatalities were in the United States. But faulty inflaters, made at North American plants, also ended up in overseas cars. Ms. Law’s Honda was manufactured in Thailand.
The spokesman for Honda Malaysia, Jordhatt Johan, said the car was part of a recall in June, although it was limited to passenger airbags. Honda announced a recall last week covering driver airbags.
In the United...
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