June 1, 2018 / 6:34 PM / 19 days ago

UPDATE 1-Honda confirms Takata air bag rupture in fatal Malaysia crash

(Recasts throughout with details, background)

By David Shepardson

June 1 (Reuters) - A Takata air bag inflator ruptured in a fatal car crash earlier this week in Malaysia, Honda Motor Co said on Friday, in what appears to be the 23rd death worldwide linked to the faulty part that can emit deadly metal fragments.

The Japanese automaker has previously confirmed 18 deaths since 2009 linked to the issue that sparked the largest auto industry safety recall in history, involving about 100 million inflators among 19 major automakers.

In addition to the Honda deaths, Ford Motor Co has reported two Takata-linked deaths in the United States since 2015. Honda also has reported three other fatal crashes in vehicles equipped with Takata air bag inflators that ruptured, including the new one in Malaysia. No official cause of death has been given by local authorities in the three crashes.

The latest incident took place on Wednesday in a 2004 Honda City vehicle in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, Honda said.

Of the confirmed Honda deaths, 13 have been in the United States and five in Malaysia. The other three ruptures in fatal crashes outside the United States took place in Australia and Malaysia.

Honda said the ill-fated 2004 City vehicle in Malaysia had been recalled in 2015, but repairs were never made.

In total, nearly 30 million U.S. vehicles remain unrepaired in the recall. More than 290 injuries worldwide are also linked to Takata inflators that can explode, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks. The defect led Takata to file for bankruptcy protection in June 2017.

Honda, Ford and Mazda Motor Corp have urgently warned owners of some older U.S. vehicles to stop driving them until they get repairs made. Ford and Mazda's warning covers some 2006 Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series pickups, while Honda's warning covers some 2001-2003 cars.

In April, auto components maker Key Safety Systems completed a $1.6 billion deal to acquire Takata. The merged company is now known as Joyson Safety Systems and is a subsidiary of Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp.

Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it would hold meetings with 12 major automakers that failed to fulfill a December 2017 target deadline for completing repairs on the highest-priority vehicles with dangerous Takata air bag inflators.

NHTSA said the 12 automakers have collectively repaired 65 percent of 20 million vehicles in the highest priority groups, leaving about 7 million unrepaired.

NHTSA has been criticized by some Democratic lawmakers for not doing more to prod automakers to fix vehicles faster. A U.S. Senate hearing in March also looked at the issue.

Takata pleaded guilty in 2017 single felony count of wire fraud to resolve a U.S. Justice Department investigation and agreed to a $1 billion settlement. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Tom Brown)

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