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Honda to pay US$484m in air bag malfunction settlement

[CHICAGO] Honda Motor Co agreed to pay US$484 million to settle economic-loss claims tied to Takata Corp air bag recalls, bringing total settlements over the faulty safety devices to more than US$1 billion.

The agreement will provide for faster replacement of recalled air bags and reimburse customers for out-of-pocket costs.

The Honda deal follows a US$533 million settlement with four other automakers reached in May. That agreement with Toyota Motor Corp, Subaru Corp, Mazda Motor Corp and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG won preliminary court approval in June. Nissan Motor Co agreed to pay US$98 million last month.

The massive Takata air bag recalls, the largest in history, led to the company's filing for bankruptcy in June and spurred lawsuits by consumers and accident victims. The air bags can malfunction, sending shards of metal at drivers and passengers, and are linked to at least 17 deaths worldwide.

The consumers sued the automakers and Takata claiming they had to pay for vehicle rentals and incurred other economic losses while waiting for the air bags to be replaced. They also said the automakers and Takata weren't recalling and replacing defective air bags quickly enough.

As part of Friday's settlement, Honda will create a fund of almost US$200 million to expand its efforts to reach owners who haven't responded to recall notices, or who haven't been located.

The total negotiated value of Friday's settlement was US$605 million, but the plaintiffs agreed to a 20 per cent discount in Honda's out-of-pocket expenses in view of its prior efforts to repair affected vehicles and provide loaner cars, spokesman Chris Martin said.

The plaintiffs will continue to press similar claims against Ford Motor Co and other automakers, lead counsel Peter Prieto said in a statement.

Friday's settlement must be approved by a judge in Miami and doesn't cover personal injury claims related to faulty Takata airbags.