On Wednesday Honda Motor Co announced plans Wednesday to recall almost 46,000 Odyssey minivans from the 2008-9 model years, because a manufacturing flaw could mean the rear doors fall on people unexpectedly, and have already done so on at least two occasions so far.
Honda said that the flaw in the Odyssey EX-L and Touring models allows gas to leak out of the struts that support the lift gates. The flaw, Chris Martin, a spokesman for Honda, said could result "in the liftgate closing under its own power, possibly unexpectedly."
The liftgate may "fall a short distance" before the system's motor was engaged to support the tailgate's weight," Martin wrote in an email.
This is not the first time Honda, who ranked fifth in U.S. sales last year, has been under investigation for strut failures. In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wanted to recall 22,000 Honda Odysseys from the 2005 model year, citing an "unreasonable risk of injury."
Honda responded to the first request for a recall by N.H.T.S.A that the strut failure was simply an inconvenience, not a safety defect, and that they "respectfully declines the staff's request for a safety recall of these vehicles."
Honda also argued that Toyota, who has had similar strut complaints from owners of the 2004-6 model Sienna, were not forced by N.H.T.S.A to recall their vehicles. In this instance Honda's refusal to comply led to a regulatory standstill.
While N.HT.S.A could have taken Honda to court, in the first instance, N.H.T.S.A allowed Honda to conduct their own safety campaign, in which Honda installed new struts for free for owners experiencing problems.
Honda was also subject to investigation last September after N.H.T.S.A, received several complaints about the struts, including two complaints from owners who said they were injured by falling liftgates.
Honda will send letters to van owners next month with instructions about the recall.