Honda has announced plans to recall 383,000 Civics, Accords and Elements built in 2003 and 2004. Due to a fault with the ignition interlock system that normally prevents the key from being removed until the transmission lever is in Park, the affected Hondas could roll away on their own accord.

According to Honda, the interlock system can wear prematurely, allowing the key to be pulled regardless of the shifter position. If the parking pawl isn't engaged, the vehicle can roll away if parked on a slope.

While this has nothing to do with the sort of problems that Toyota has experienced, there is an interesting parallel regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's defect database. Toyota complained that there was insufficient detail in the database categories, resulting in the appearance that there were more incidents of unintended acceleration than there actually were. This Honda issue is purely a mechanical failure of the locking system and yet it is grouped under Electrical System:Ignition problems. This lack of detail makes it much more difficult and time consuming for engineers to sift through the data to find and prioritize issues to fix. As part of the follow-up to its recalls, Toyota has been talking to NHTSA about revising the database to make it easier to mine relevant information other automakers will likely be following suit.

[Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Honda]
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Statement by American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Regarding Ignition Switch Interlock Mechanism Recall: 2003 Accord, Civic, 2003/2004 Element Vehicles

08/09/2010 - TORRANCE, Calif. -

Honda will recall approximately 197,000 Accord and 117,000 Civic vehicles from the 2003 model year and roughly 69,000 Element vehicles from the 2003 and 2004 model years in the U.S. to prevent a malfunction of the ignition interlock feature of these vehicles. Honda has received several complaints about such failures in these vehicles and is aware of a small number of related incidents, including one that resulted in a minor injury.

The ignition interlock mechanism can be damaged or worn during use. If this happens, it may become possible to remove the ignition key when the shift lever is not in Park. If the transmission is not in Park and the parking brake is not set, the vehicle could roll away, and a crash could occur.

Honda is announcing this recall to encourage all owners of affected vehicles to take their vehicle to an authorized dealer as soon as they receive notification from Honda that their vehicle requires repair. Notification to customers will start in late September, 2010.

When Honda identifies concerns of this nature, nothing is more important to the company than fulfilling our obligation and responsibility to alert our customers. To this end, in addition to contacting customers by mail, after Sept. 20, 2010, owners of these vehicles will be able to determine if their vehicle requires repair by going on-line or calling Honda. Honda owners can go to www.recalls.honda.com or call (800) 999-1009, and select option 4.