Recall Is Largest, Most Fraudulent in History
The airbag was considered one of the most effective auto safety advances in auto manufacturing history. But over 15 years ago, they began exploding without warning, killing at least six people and seriously injuring at least 139 others. Takata, the company that produced most of them, denied it was at fault.
But pressured by over 100 lawsuits, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), fines, and loss of revenue, Takata admitted its airbags were dangerously defective yesterday. It also agreed to recall another 17 million vehicles. This brings the total number to a shocking 34 million — one out of seven of the vehicles on U.S. roads. Takata still effectively denies that it was at fault.
This is the largest recall in automotive history, surpassing even the G.M.ignition switch debacle. Both companies knew about their defective products for many years and engaged in massive fraud which endangered drivers all over the world. I’ve blogged about these corporate cover-ups and am glad that the public will be better protected.
Takata Aware of the Dangers Since 2000
When there is an impact, gas inside a canister is ignited which rapidly inflates the airbag. Takata’s airbags contained an ammonium nitrate propellant that is commonly used in fertilizer — think back to what happened to the town of West two years ago when it blew up. But it is cheaper to use than the previously used propellant based on tetrazole. Unfortunately, it is highly risk because it is sensive to moisture, obviously a problem in humid states like Texas. The canister can quickly heat up, then violently explodes. This sends sharp metal fragments flying into the interior of the vehicle like shrapnel. The shards of metal can lacerate, blind, or even kill the driver and front seat passenger. Other drivers on the road are obviously at risk if a driver goes out of control. It’s a nightmare waiting to happen.
The problem dates back 15 years. Beginning in 2000, just after Takata switched to ammonia nitrate, consumers filed reports with the NHTSA complaining of these rupturing airbags. Takata tested them and discovered the serious defect. But the company strongly denied any defect, even though its own engineers — who were fired or quit — found the problem and suggested an alternative. Takata finally conceded that some of its bags did not work, but claimed that the fault was a manufacturing defect outside of its control to shift the blame to automakers.
TSA Finally Takes Action
Honda issued the first Takata-related recall of 4,000 vehicles in November 2008. Six months later, the Honda recalled an additional 510,000 cars after flying shrapnel from an exploding airbag killed a teenager. Honda, Toyota and Nissan have recalled 11.5 million cars as of last week. Frighteningly, millions more people are still driving around with Takata airbags. They could explode at any moment, especially now that it’s warmer and more humid outside.
Takata’s admission and NHTSA’s aggressive new administrator are important steps in getting these ticking time bombs off the road. The problem is that there are insufficient replacement parts and confusion between Takata and dealerships regarding payment. The federal government may have to take over the recall process.
Check to see if your vehicle is on the Takata recall list and contact us if you have any questions. It is still not clear as to which vehicles are affected. Here is another list by VIN number. Stay tuned, as this debacle is far from over.
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