Takata, the manufacturer of millions of airbags across the world, recently
refused to take the recommendation of the NHTSA to expand the recall outside
of high-humidity areas, stating airbags in other states, which were not
subjected to excessive humidity, were perfectly safe. Approximately 8
million vehicles have been recalled in the United States, and if Takata
agrees to a nationwide recall, another 8 million will be recalled as well.
Takata officials stubbornly maintain that only prolonged exposure to airborne
moisture is the cause of the defective airbags which can explode with
excessive force, spraying shrapnel into the passenger area. The airbags
have been implicated in at least five deaths and dozens of serious injuries.
Honda Named as Co-Defendant in Lawsuits
Prior to Takata's refusal to expand the recall of potentially deadly
airbags, several dozen lawsuits were filed seeking class-action status
against Takata. These complaints allege Takata was well aware of the defects
associated with the airbags as far back as 2004-a good four years prior
to the first recall-and that those records were deliberately destroyed.
Honda, Takata's largest customer, was named as a co-defendant in the
lawsuit. Approximately six million of the recalled vehicles are made by
Honda. The lawsuit is asking for monetary damages and other relief for
any consumer who bought a new or used Honda vehicle. According to the
New York Times, Takata conducted secret testing of the airbags in 2004
after an Alabama driver suffered serious injury when a Takata airbag ruptured,
spraying tiny metal fragments at the driver with explosive force.
Testing Reveals Serious Flaws in Airbags Which Some Claim Were Cheaply Made
Takata's test results revealed cracks in the steel canisters which
housed the rapid inflation system of the airbag, compromising the structural
integrity. Rather than initiate recalls and safety protocols once the
test results were in, Takata apparently had the evidence of the tests
destroyed, down to the computer backup files and all video footage. A
number of internal memos and documents that indicated Takata was aware
of the airbag problems for years have also come to light. U.S. regulatory
agencies were totally unaware of the potential safety hazards associated
with the airbags until 2008, when the first recall was issued.
Honda Agreed to Ignore Tests Which Showed Takata Airbags Were Dangerous
Honda was also made aware of the Takata test results in 2004, yet agreed
with Takata officials that the test results-as well as the exploded airbag
in the Alabama case-were nothing more than "anomalies," and
agreed with Takata to ignore the evidence. This decision potentially endangered
the lives of consumers across the United States. Dozens of lawsuits have
been filed and have been submitted for consideration to federal judges
who are currently weighing a request to consolidate all Takata airbag
cases in a Miami U.S. court.
Is a Criminal Investigation Against Takata by the United States Likely?
The reports that Takata concealed and destroyed test results associated
with the Takata airbags may require a criminal investigation by the U.S.
Department of Justice in addition to the civil suits filed against the company.