Honda Recalls More Cars

Honda has announced it will recall 437,763 more vehicles because of faulty air bags. The total number of recalls is now over 950,000. Models include Accords, Civics, CR-Vs, Acura TLs, and Odysseys. Nearly 379,000 of those cars are in the U.S. Businessweek reports:

The recall expansion heightens safety scrutiny of Japan’s largest automakers. Honda’s biggest competitor, Toyota Motor Corp., is working to reassure customers after recalling more than 8 million vehicles worldwide to fix problems linked to unintended acceleration and brake failures.

“Because of the Toyota recalls, Honda’s action is getting a lot of attention, but it’s not fundamentally a big deal,” said Mamoru Kato, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center in Nagoya, Japan. “Recalls are kind of an everyday thing.”

The company knows of one death and 12 incidents related to the air-bag defect, John Mendel, Honda’s U.S. executive vice president, said in a conference call. “The air bag produces excessive internal pressure, and there’s a risk of some metal shards coming through. That could cause injury.”

U.S. vehicles to be repaired include some 2001 and 2002 Accord and Civic cars, Odyssey minivans, CR-V sport-utility vehicles and 2002 Acura TL cars. An initial U.S. recall in November 2008 included 4,600 Accords and Civics, and another 440,000 of those cars and some Acura TLs were added in July.

The company will notify affected car owners in writing.

The AP adds:

One analyst suggested Toyota’s woes may have lowered the bar for recalls, prompting automakers to announce full-fledged recalls for problems that would normally be handled during regular car inspections or service campaigns calling in cars at the owner’s convenience.

“With Toyota’s big problems, Honda probably realized it couldn’t avoid a recall in these other models,” said Toshirou Yoshinaga, an analyst at Aizawa Securities in Tokyo.

But Honda’s (PR manager Natsuno) Asanuma denied Toyota’s problems had any impact on Honda’s actions, while acknowledging increased consumer sensitivity to safety issues.

“We are following the normal procedure, so it doesn’t mean customers’ feelings changed our attitude,” she said. “There are strict regulations regarding recalls.”

As much as Honda claims its recalls are normal, I’m sure the company isn’t happy about the Toyota fiasco. Japanese automakers as a whole will have to defend their reputations for a while. In the meantime, competitors have a window of opportunity to prove their mettle. Hear that, US carmakers?