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Honda’s history takes another hit

On behalf of Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP | Mar 25, 2019 |

Desiccants are a common presence in many products, yet are rarely seen and often thrown away upon discovery. The substance induces dryness in any environment by reducing the level of moisture in the air. Certain types of clothing will have a small pack in a pocket to protect the material from damage. It also accompanies shipped electronics to minimize humidity. Cocoa, coffee and grains may be packed with them to prevent mold and rot that comes with condensation.

Yet, for all the good that it does, desiccants have their share of limitations, particularly when it comes to their introduction to the automotive industry.

Honda History Repeats Itself

While individual car accidents do not normally make headlines, a collision in Maryland involving a 2004 Honda Odyssey led to history repeating itself. A driver traveling in Maryland had suffered injuries when the inflator ruptured the driver-side air bag.

Takata Corp. manufactured the inflator as a substitute to a previously defective one. Installed in 2015 following the prior recall, it represented Honda’s initial efforts to replace all inflators due to the propellant being deemed unstable and potentially explosive should impact occur.

That initial defect was responsible for more than a dozen fatalities and 220 injuries both in the United States and throughout the world. Air bags would deploy with dangerous and deadly force with metal parts serving as projectiles aimed at and potentially propelled towards the driver. Honda’s response resulted in the largest auto safety recall in history. One million vehicles in the United States were taken off the road to replace faulty air bag parts.

The replacement contained a chemical substance that is known as a desiccant. The chemical compound was meant to absorb moisture and keep the propellant stable. However, following the Maryland crash, the solution seemed to create yet another problem for the carmaker.

A Carmaker On The Defense Again

Initial suspicions by Honda place responsibility on a manufacturing plant in Mexico where the desiccant was supposedly exposed to moisture that introduced humidity into the sealed inflator. Early tests revealed a larger amount of desiccant than other inflators. The higher levels of the compound, if tainted, would lead to excessive moisture levels in the inflator – defeating the purpose of the substance.

While not hitting the historic levels of the first recall, Honda Motor Corp. once again finds itself not only looking for answers to another public relations nightmare, but also regrouping to rebuild trust and confidence within the consumer market.