On June 26, 2017, safety products manufacturer Takata filed for bankruptcy. Their debts at the time totaled about $9 billion, with high costs and liabilities connected to the company’s defective airbags. U.S.-based rival Key Safety Systems, a Chinese company, paid $1.6 billion to take over most of the company’s assets. Both companies pledged to continue operations to replace defective airbag inflators.
Still, the process of making cars safer has been slow. As of June 2017, about 26 million U.S. recalled vehicles remained unrepaired, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Consumers have already been waiting for months and even years in some cases for replacement parts.
Airbag Repairs Still Progressing Slowly
Takata has assured consumers that the bankruptcy will not stop airbag repairs. According to Consumer Reports, the company plans to “maintain control of the airbag business and not slow production until the demand for replacement airbags has been met.”
AutoNews reports that only five of the 19 automakers affected by Takata recalls have completed at least 30 percent of their recall repairs. There have been difficulties getting enough replacement parts for a long time, and then when dealerships finally get them, they often have trouble getting consumers to bring their vehicles in for repairs.
NHTSA has given high priority to southern states where vehicles are more exposed to high temperatures and high humidity. Independent studies on the airbags revealed that heat, age, and moisture increased the risk of the fuel in the airbag inflators becoming unstable and causing an explosion during deployment. These explosions have already killed at least 11 people in the U.S. and injured nearly 200 others.
Many Airbags May Need to be Replaced Twice
The bankruptcy has understandably made many consumers concerned that repairs will be affected, but the NHTSA and others are staying on top of the issue to make sure that all repairs progress as planned. Automakers are likely to end up having to shoulder much of the costs themselves, but they will do whatever is necessary to make the vehicles safe again. The NHTSA has stated that if Takata stops producing parts for some reason, it will be up to the automakers to provide safe replacements.
Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, advised vehicle owners to talk to their dealers about repairs, and that if parts are still unavailable, to get on the dealer’s list to be called when they do come in.
Even those consumers who have already gone through repairs with their vehicles may need to have repairs done again, as many of the replacement parts have some of the same issues as the older ones. Automakers went ahead with repairs as newer airbags are considered less risky than older ones, but they’re still not as safe as newer airbags that follow all specifications for reducing the risk of explosions.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.