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Second Airbag Inflator Death Prompts Ford to Warn Some Pickup Owners

Ford Motor Co said Thursday that it had confirmed a second death in an older pickup truck caused by a defective airbag inflator of Takata Corp., and it urged 2,900 owners in North America to stop driving their vehicles 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 into the driver’s body.

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 those 391,000 2004-06 Ranger vehicles, 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 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 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. Takata did not immediately comment Thursday on the Ford action.

Agency echoes Ford warning

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 loaners 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 United States. Nineteen automakers worldwide are affected.

Takata inflators can explode with excessive force, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks, and have injured more than 200 people. 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 has come to the United States to face charges.

Last year, Takata pleaded guilty of wire fraud and was subject to paying 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 had not yet been repaired. 

Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said in a statement Thursday that the latest death was evidence of “the very definition of a failed recall.” 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 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 they were fixed. NHTSA said the inflators have as high as a 50 percent chance of a rupture in a crash.

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