Honda faces recalls of airbags and new hybrid system

Issues include finding airbag replacement parts and lowered sales forecast

2015/01/23

Summary

The JADE
The Jade, a new passenger car equipped
with the same hybrid system as the Fit.
(to be  launched in February 2015)

 This report covers details and effects of the two major recalls that Honda Motor Co., Ltd. recently faced. Honda reported recalls of the new hybrid systems first mounted on the Fit Hybrid as well as Takata Corporation's airbags equipped in Honda vehicles.

 As for the Fit Hybrid and the Vezel Hybrid, Honda introduced a new, complex system to connect the engine and the motor with a Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) and to synchronize them with the brake system as well. The OEM admitted that this complex system had not been verified enough, though it provides so many possibilities in combination.

 Honda plans to add a process early in the vehicles'development stage and install a system for controlling independently developed element technologies into a prototype vehicle and test how smoothly they function together in a vehicle.

 Affected by recalls of the Fit Hybrid and the Vezel Hybrid, Honda revised its forecast for FY 2015 sales in Japan downward to 930,000 units from originally planned 1.03 million units. Concurrently, the FY 2015 production in Japan is to fall by 30,000 to 40,000 units from 937,000 units last fiscal year.

 As for the Takata airbag issue, Honda vehicles to be recalled totaled 13 million units at the end of 2014, accounting for over 50% of all the suspect vehicles. The number of recalled vehicles is huge in the U.S. because flaws in quality control at Takata's plants in the U.S. and Mexico were initially blamed as the cause of the malfunction.

 Since around 2013, it has been found that many explosion incidents happened in areas of high absolute humidity. Honda, therefore, started voluntarily in June 2014, the investigative recall for all the suspect vehicles in highly humid areas of the Southern U.S. Furthermore, in order to meet the request by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Honda announced nationwide expansion of this action. (This action is not a regular recall in a sense that no defect cause has been identified, but an OEM voluntarily retrieves all the suspect components, replaces them by new ones and investigates them to identify the problem. It is reported as "investigative recall" in the news media and Honda calls it "Safety Improvement Campaign (SIC)."

 Influence of the airbag recalls on Honda's sales in the U.S. has been reported as comparatively small and its light vehicle sales in 2014 increased to 1.54 million units, up 1% year on year (y/y), although the market share dropped to 9.4% from 9.8% y/y. Once the investigative recall is expanded nationwide, however, supply of replacement parts could present a large problem.


Related reports:
Honda Fit Hybrid teardown (Part 1): Battery components & brake system (Dec. 2013)
Honda Fit Hybrid teardown (Part 2): Engine and transmission (Dec. 2013)