Honda Motors has confirmed that it was in fact aware of a ruptured Takata air bag inflator in a car that was covered by a 2002 recall. The automaker said the inflator design was different from one that ruptured in a 2004 accident, however, according to Reuters.
The 2004 incident, which wasn't disclosed to the public until 2009, had previously been the first reported instance of a ruptured Takata inflator in a Honda vehicle.
"(The 2002 recall) is unrelated to all later ruptures" and "involves a prior generation of air bag inflators than the ones that are the subject of subsequent recalls," said a Honda spokesman on Thursday.
The air bags in both affected vehicles were supplied by Japan's Takata Corp, which made the air bags installed in more than 10 million cars from Honda and other automakers that have been recalled over the last six years.
The ruptured inflator involved in the 2002 Honda recall was of a different design that the ones involved in later recalls that began in 2008, a Takata spokesman said on Thursday.
Inflators in the later-model Takata air bags have been susceptible to rupture, especially when exposed to moisture, and can spray hot metal fragments into vehicle occupants. The defective air bags and inflators have been linked to at least five deaths, all in Honda cars.
U.S. safety records indicated that Honda called back a small number of cars equipped with Takata air bags in March 2002, two years before the first known injury that Honda and Takata have linked to a defective inflator.
Honda told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that inflators in passenger air bags in the 2000 Honda Accord and 2000 Acura TL could rupture because of improper welds in its official recall notice released in 2002.
A congressional subcommittee has scheduled a hearing next Wednesday on the Takata recalls.