American Honda has confirmed that a Houston driver's death was caused by a faulty air bag installed in one of its vehicles.
The company said Friday that its representatives had inspected the 2002 Honda Accord involved in the fatal Jan. 18 crash and found that it was defective.
"Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of the driver during this difficult time," the company said in a statement.
Honda said the defective air bag, made by a company whose restraint systems are now the source of millions of vehicle safety recalls, ruptured upon impact during the accident.
The driver has not been identified.
The company also said the vehicle had been included in a 2011 recall for a defective front air bag inflator. Its records, they said, indicated the recommended repair had not been completed.
"American Honda continues to urge owners of Honda and Acura vehicles affected by the Takata airbag inflator recalls to get their vehicles repaired at authorized dealers as soon as possible," the company said.
Honda and other automakers are having problems with inflators made by auto parts supplier Takata Corp. The inflators, which rely on an explosive charge, can deploy with too much force and send metal shrapnel into the passenger cabin. The faulty air bags are linked to multiple deaths and are responsible for recalls of more than 20 million vehicles globally.
The vehicles affected include those made by Honda -- Takata's biggest customer -- as well as Nissan, Subaru, Ford, Chrysler, BMW, Mitsubishi and Mazda.
Honda has confirmed three deaths and 52 injuries in the U.S. caused by driver’s side Takata air bag inflator ruptures. It is also looking at a fatality in California that, like the Houston death, may have been caused by the problem.
Recalled but unrepaired vehicles have become a growing problem on U.S. roads as automakers increase the number of vehicles they are calling back for safety defects.
Automakers recalled about 60 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, almost double the previous record set a decade earlier. But as many as 35 million of these vehicles have not been repaired, according to some estimates -- even though many have defects that have been linked to multiple fatalities.
Commenting on the problem last month, Clarence Ditlow, executive director at the Center for Auto Safety, said, “There's no doubt someone else is going to die.”
Honda said it has reported the fatality to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Earlier this year, the agency fined Honda $70 million for failing to report deaths and injuries involving its vehicles in a timely manner. The fine was the largest ever levied on an automaker by the safety agency.