Our Firm is investigating air bag recalls involving more than 14 million cars equipped with Takata airbags. The Takata airbags may potentially explode, injuring or killing occupants of vehicles outfitted with the purported safety devices, according to Jalopnik. Takata is a Japan-based firm.
Airbag Recalls Span Various Makes, Models, Years
The defective Takata airbags involve an array of automakers and were installed in numerous Japanese-, American-, and German-manufactured cars over many years. In fact, recalls involving Takata airbags have been ongoing for some time. For instance, last April, 3.6 million Honda, BMW, Nissan, and other model vehicles were recalled worldwide over airbag issues. Five years prior to that, 6.5 million cars were recalled over faulty Takata airbags.
A recent New York Times investigation into the recall on airbags revealed the way in which Takata and Honda considered the Takata airbag debacle as a so-called “anomaly.” This resulted in the firms not recalling vehicles until 2008, even though both Takata and Honda knew about the problems for years prior.
No Centralized Listing of Impacted Cars
There is no centralized airbag recall list of cars that have been equipped with the potentially defective Takata airbags. Some of the known Takata airbag recall models include:
- BMW Airbag Recall Models: Mid-2000s BMW 3-Series models
- Ford Airbag Recall Models: Some mid-2000s Ford Mustangs; some mid-2000s Rangers
- Subaru Airbag Recall Models: Mid-2000s Subaru Bajas, Legacies, and Imprezas
- Toyota Airbag Recall Models: Early 2000s Toyota Tundras, Corollas, and Sequoias
- Nissan, Infiniti Airbag Recall Models: Early 2000s Nissan Maximas, Sentras ,and Pathfinders; various Infinitis
- Mazda Airbag Recall Models: Early 2000s Mazda6s and RX-8s
- Honda, Acura Airbag Recall Models: Nearly every model Honda and Acura manufactured in the 2000s, such as Accords, Civics, CR-Vs, and MDXs
Honda, Takata’s largest customer, is the carmaker most intensely impacted by the ongoing recalls.
Airbags Detonate, Release Shrapnel
The airbags are known to detonate, with the most recently reported Takata airbag detonation having occurred in June 2014.
Airbags are constructed with an explosive device in the metal airbag inflater. In faulty airbags, the devices may burn more violently than intended, which causes the inflater to detonate, which bursts the device and sends pieces of metal through the fabric of the airbag. This detonation could potentially lead to significant injuries or death in the occupant’s of the vehicle.
Injuries, Deaths Tied to Faulty Airbags
The New York Times report indicates that, based on complaints received by regulators, 139 injuries have occurred due to Takata airbag explosions. At least two people died in Hondas after shrapnel shot through their bodies after airbag deployment.
One of the deaths was an 18-year-old girl who bumped her 2001 Honda Accord into another car in a parking lot. The airbag unnecessarily deployed and sent airbag shrapnel into the young woman’s neck, causing her to bleed to death, according to investigators. In the other case, a 33-year-old’s 2001 Accord hit a mail truck leading to a similar airbag detonation with shrapnel. The woman bled to death in front of her children.
Takata airbags were developed in the late 1990s and were created to minimize the toxic fumes that were common in earlier airbag versions.
Airbag Issues Acknowledged by Takata
Takata, according to a prior Reuters report, experienced quality problems with its airbags from the start. According to Reuters, “Takata has acknowledged to U.S. safety regulators that it improperly stored chemicals and botched the manufacture of the explosive propellants used to inflate airbags.” Reuters also reported that, “Takata “conceded to Reuters that, in at least one case, it kept inadequate quality-control records, which meant that hundreds of thousands of cars had to be recalled to find what might have been only a small number of faulty airbags, a decade after they were made.” According to Takata, it resolved the issues.
To date the recalls involve what the NHTSA described as “limited regional actions” involving Florida and Puerto Rico. According to Takata, it has been reviewing the potential connection between airbag detonation and humid climates; however, according to a Forbes report, so-called “shrapnel deployments” have been seen in Oklahoma and Los Angeles. Also, Honda has expanded its recall to include more areas.
The first reported case of airbag shrapnel deployment was in 2004. Also, Honda settled a number of injury claims in court but did not issue a recall until 2008 and only for some 4,000 Civics and Accords. Honda advised Takata of its airbag issues in 2007 and has expanded recalls since, including one recall of almost 440,000 cars in 2010. That recall was issued with no acknowledgement by the carmaker of any prior deaths or injuries.
In 2010, BMW sought answers from Takata regarding why its airbags did not appear to be affected, as the supplier asserted. Ultimately, Takata acknowledged that BMW’s airbags were at risk.
The NHTSA, for its part, indicated that they were “kind of” aware of the issue, but not enough to order a full recall. Now, the agency is looking into if Honda should have acted sooner, which could lead to fines and penalties.
The New York Times noted that “automakers are required to inform federal regulators of a defect within five business days, even if an exact cause cannot be determined.” Honda filed a standard report in 2004 on the initial air bag injury, following up with other filings in 2007; however, while the form mandates automakers to list the components—airbags, for instance, implicated in an injury, the form does not permit for elaboration. According to the New York Times, Honda did not move beyond the standard form in any of the four cases of ruptured air bags and did not separately alert regulators concerning issues about the risk of explosion. Federal regulators did not inquire about the matters when the reports were first filed by Honda.
Takata projects a loss of some $235 million due to the recalls, Bloomberg recently reported. The firm also replaced its president, Shigehisa Takada, the grandson of the company’s founder, with a Stefan Stocker, a Swiss national. Takada is still the CEO and chairman of the company.
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