America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to know why Honda recalled cars with faulty airbags in two separate groups over the past year rather than all together.

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Last November, Honda recalled 2001 model Accords and Civics to repair over-pressurised airbag inflators that, if deployed, had the potential to rupture the metal inflator body and cause fragments to tear the airbag and injure the driver.

Then in August another 440,000 vehicles were recalled with the same problem.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission issued the recall locally on August 7, and Honda contacted owners of affected 2001-2002 Accord sedans by mail.

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The problem – which led to one death and multiple injuries – was traced to supplier Takata Corp. who was responsible for the faulty inflators.

Honda spokesman Chris Martin said his company would cooperate wholly with the NHTSA investigation and gave an explanation for the separate recalls:

“The initial range of recalled vehicles was based on a relatively small sample of problematic airbag deployments.

“It took some further customer reports of airbag deployments for us to be able to look back and say, these vehicles are not in the lot we identified but have the same problem,” he said.

The NHTSA is continuing to look into whether Honda reacted safely and appropriately to the recall.

by Tim Beissmann