Takata has once again expanded its airbag recall, this time by another about 3.3 million inflators, according to USA Today. This recall affects frontal airbags in model year 2009, 2010, and 2013 vehicles made by different automakers.
The Takata airbag recall was already the biggest ever in the country, and it continues to grow. These latest inflators were found to be defective and have been added to the list. To date, 20 people are alleged to have died because of Takata airbag explosions, and about 180 have allegedly been injured.
Takata Airbag Recalls Have Been Going Since 2008
Takata has been gradually recalling some inflators since about 2008, when Honda promised replacements for 4,000 Accords and Civics because of the potential for airbag ruptures. Other smaller recalls occurred in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and in 2013, they started to expand further, including 3.4 million recalled by Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda.
In June 2014, Takata CEO, Shigehisa Takata apologized to shareholders because the growing recall problems were affecting the bottom line. At that point, automakers had recalled about 10.5 million vehicles to replace inflators that could explode upon deployment and shoot shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle. Potential injuries included hearing and vision loss, cuts and lacerations, and knife-like wounds that could cause life-threatening bleeding and even death.
Meanwhile, stories continued to come out about consumers suffering from serious injuries, some fatal, when they were involved in an accident with a Takata airbag. In October 2014, for example, an Orlando woman died just a few days after she was in an accident with her 2001 Honda Accord in which the airbag exploded. She was only 51 years old.
Takata Eventually Files for Bankruptcy
By 2015, Takata was struggling to make enough replacement inflators to replace the defective ones. Some consumers received recall notices only to be told by their dealerships that the parts weren’t in, and they’d have to wait. For some consumers, if they had no other transportation alternative, they had to drive vehicles with potentially defective airbags in them.
As the automakers continued to add more and more vehicles to the recall, Honda hired a U.S. engineering consultancy to investigate Takata airbag problems. The Atlantic and other news outlets zeroed in on what may be causing the problem—the propellant that was used in the inflators, namely, ammonium nitrate. Takata replaced tetrazole, which they were using before, with this new propellant in 2001. Investigators later reported that some Takata employees were uncomfortable with the change, and warned of serious safety risks with the new fuel.
By November of 2015, Takata had agreed to phase out the use of ammonium nitrate, while paying a $70 million fine as part of a deal with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As part of the deal, the NHTSA prioritized recalls “so the greatest safety risks are addressed first,” according to their press release, and set deadlines for future recalls.
Since then, older, “high risk” vehicles in hot, humid areas have been first on the list for repairs, because time, heat, and humidity area believed to be factors in creating an unstable inflator. In January 2017, Takata pled guilty to criminal wrongdoing and agreed to pay $1 billion in penalties. And in June 2017, they filed for bankruptcy. Key Safety Systems was slated to take over this year (2018).
Currently the recall includes about 45 million vehicles.
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.