In an earlier blog post, we wrote about the Takata air bag recall, what led to the recall, and what vehicles were affected. In a quick recap:
A crash can cause the inflator mechanisms on the airbags to rupture, spraying bits of metal and shrapnel into the faces and chests of drivers and front-seat passengers. Apparently the chemical that actually deploys the bags during crashes was mishandled during manufacture; humidity increases the danger. At the time our post was written, over 7.78 million vehicles were affected. Initial recalls were only regional and issued in tropical climates like Florida; because it is believed that the risk of the airbag overinflating and rupturing is due to humidity.
Since then, more developments have surfaced regarding additional vehicles that contained the defective airbags, as well as Takata’s defiant response to those developments, including it’s head butting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
On Wednesday of this week, Honda Motor Co. agreed to a request by the U.S. government to expand its recall of driver-side air bags to a nationwide scale. That decision could lead to the recall of several million vehicles. Honda had previously been criticized for under-reporting Takata airbag incidents. Additionally, Chrysler Group LLC also agreed to recall an additional 149,150 pickups. However, Chrysler’s agreement was far from total acquiescence as the U.S.’s recall request was much broader than that number. Also on Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. agreed to expand its regional air bag recall by 13,000 vehicles.
What is causing this inquiry to heat up, in addition to the expansive number of vehicles that may have been affected by these defective airbags, is increasing information regarding when Takata realized the airbags were defective. According to Time Magazine, in 2003, Takata conducted an investigation regarding an air-bag inflator that had ruptured in a BMW vehicle, but concluded the problem was an anomaly.
Additionally, some of Takata’s technicians in Michigan tested inflators for potential defects as early as 2004, over a year before Takata stated it learned of defects now linked to multiple deaths. Takata’s chief quality officer, Hiroshi Shimizu, told a Senate committee last month that they did not begin investigating inflator defects until May 2005, after learning of an accident involving a Honda Accord that occurred in 2004. This revelation could expose the company to more scrutiny from U.S. legislators, regulators and prosecutors, in an ongoing criminal investigation into these recalls, according to Time Magazine.
Although NHTSA hasn’t sought a nationwide recall of passenger-side airbags, last week it demanded Takata declare that millions of vehicles sold with driver-side air bags nationwide are defective. That would be the first step toward forcing the company to recall the vehicles.
However, at the Congressional hearing Wednesday, Takata remained defiant in the face of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s demand that the recall be extended nationwide. In response, Takata was harshly criticized for their intransigence. The catch is that NHTSA does not have the power to actually order a recall. In light of Takata’s refusal, NHTSA now must issue an initial decision demanding a recall and must schedule a public hearing. At the hearing, it could hear graphic testimony from those who have been injured. If Takata continues to refuse to recall vehicles after the hearing, NHTSA would have to resort to litigation to enforce the recall demand, according to the Detroit News. It is interesting to note that if Takata had issued the recall order demanded by NHTSA, all of the automakers that install the company’s air bags would have been the party obligated to carry it out.
As Takata produces 1 in 5 airbags nationwide, the scale of this recall could reach a very large number of vehicles. Currently, 10 automakers have recalled millions of vehicles.
How can you determine whether your vehicle is one of those affected? You can go to www.safercar.gov and type in your vehicle identification number, which is normally printed on your vehicle registration and stamped on the dashboard. You can also call your dealer.
Sources: Washington Post, Time Magazine, Detroit News, thecarconnection.com, ABC News
If you or a loved one find yourselves in the unfortunate situation of being victims of a defective airbag, don’t delay. Call the product liability attorneys at Brooks Law Group today to determine whether you are entitled to any compensation.