More auto recalls: Honda says nearly 900,000 vans have fire risk

As GM fends off accusations of deaths from ignored ignition flaw, Honda says Odyssey vans have faulty fuel-pump

Honda Motor Co., Japan's second-largest automaker, is recalling nearly 900,000 Odyssey minivans that could catch fire.
Tim Boyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Honda Motor Co is recalling nearly 900,000 Odyssey minivans that could catch fire, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a recall notice posted Friday.

In a March 13 filing with NHTSA, Honda said 2005-2010 Odysseys built in Alabama have a fuel-pump part that could crack and cause a fuel leak, increasing the risk of fire. The company said it has no reports of fires or injuries related to the problem.

The recall comes just one month after General Motors Co issued a massive recall of compact cars for faulty ignition switches that could turn off the car's engine and disable airbags. A recent report by the Center for Auto Safety, a safety watchdog group, found that the problem may have resulted in at least 300 deaths.

Because the Honda recall involves 886,815 Odyssey vans, the company said that the proper repair parts won't be available until summer. In the meantime, it will provide "interim" parts to customers, who will be notified beginning in April.

Honda said it had investigated several potential causes of cracks in the fuel-pump strainer cover, including acid from chemicals found in car washes and low-PH materials used in fertilizer and dust control agents.

The fuel pump modules were made in the United States by Japanese supplier Denso, according to Honda.

Honda said the recalled vans were built at its Lincoln, Alabama, plant from June 23, 2004, through September 4, 2010.

General Motors deaths

In its report issued Thursday, the Center for Auto Safety said that U.S. safety regulators recorded 303 deaths when airbags failed to deploy in 1.6 million compact cars recalled last month by General Motors Co.

The higher death toll ratchets up the pressure on GM, which had previously said it logged reports of 12 deaths in 34 crashes in the recalled cars.

GM recalled the cars because when the ignition switch is jostled, a key could turn off the car's engine and disable airbags, sometimes while traveling at high speed.

GM did not recall the cars until February, despite learning of problems with the ignition switch in 2001 and issuing related service bulletins to dealers with suggested remedies in 2005.

The automaker is facing increasing pressure to compensate victims and create a $1 billion fund.

The Center for Auto Safety said it referenced crash and fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

GM said late Thursday that the new report was based on "raw data" and "without rigorous analysis, it is pure speculation to attempt to draw any meaningful conclusions."

Clarence Ditlow, the center's executive director, said, "NHTSA could and should have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags were not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers."

The safety agency has been criticized for not pressing GM to recall the cars with defective switches, despite receiving hundreds of consumer complaints in the past 10 years and implementing its own investigations of two fatalities related to the faulty ignition switches.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Thursday promised an "aggressive investigation" into whether GM was slow to report to the federal government problems with ignition switches on the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2003-2007 Saturn Ion.

GM said its investigation into the massive recall and the impact of the defective switch is "ongoing."

GM's slow recall, 13 years after the company first saw signs of a problem, is the subject of several investigations, including by Congress and by NHTSA.

The U.S. attorney in Manhattan has opened a criminal probe, and House and Senate committees have pledged to hold hearings about GM and NHTSA's behavior.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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