At least four automakers knew that Takata airbags were dangerous and could rupture violently, yet continued to install those airbags in their vehicles to save on costs, according to a recent class action suit filed by lawyers representing victims of the defect.
Takata Enters Guilty Plea
Takata admitted to hiding problems for years in their inflators that can cause them to explode with too much force, shooting shrapnel into drivers and passengers, resulting in at least eleven deaths and over 100 injuries in the United States. On February 27, 2017, Takata Corporation pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and agreed to pay $850 million in restitution to automakers, $125 million for victims and families and a $25 million criminal fine for concealing a deadly defect in millions of its air bag inflators.
Four Automakers Named with Takata in Class Action Suit
Also on February 27, 2017, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota were named in a class action lawsuit along with Takata. During testing of Takata’s inflators in 1999 and 2000 at Honda’s facilities, at least two inflators ruptured. Over Takata’s objections, Honda pushed a problematic configuration of the propellant. In 2004, Honda and Takata became aware of an airbag explosion in a Honda Accord that shot out metal fragments and injured the car’s driver, but the companies considered it an “anomaly” and did not issue a recall or seek the involvement of federal safety regulators. Honda, of course, denied allegations of wrongdoing, saying that it “reasonably believed, based on extensive test results provided by Takata, that they were safe” and believed that it acted “promptly and appropriately” in handling known airbag defects.
Toyota knew of the airbag defects when a Takata inflator ruptured at a Toyota facility during testing. Although Toyota considered Takata’s quality performance “unacceptable and had “large quality concerns” about the supplier,” it continued to use Takata airbags for cost reasons.
Takata engineers for years knew that the explosive propellant in its airbag inflators was sensitive to moisture, making it particularly unstable, yet adopted it despite concerns over its safety. In 2005, Nissan began to investigate the use of adding a drying agent to Takata’s airbag inflators.
Ford also chose Takata inflators for cost reasons, over the objections of its own inflator expert, who opposed the use of Takata’s propellant because of its instability and sensitivity to moisture.
There was circumstantial evidence that German carmaker BMW was involved in a similar cover-up of Takata airbag safety concerns, but BMW refused to submit documents in the case.
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