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Eight auto manufacturers stated this week that they will recall more than 12 million US cars, trucks and SUVs to replace defective Takata airbags, which has greatly expanded the largest auto safety push in history.
Honda plans to recall 4.5 million US vehicles and Fiat Chrysler will recall 4.3 million. The new recall is going to be targeting passenger side air bag inflators. Previous recalls were for the inflators on the driver side.
Takata stated that 14 million inflators are being recalled in the initial phase of this recall, and the 12 million above is included in that number.
It has been found that Takata inflators can blow up with too much force and shoot metal shrapnel into the passenger area, leading to serious injury and deaths.
The bad air bag inflators have been related to 13 deaths and more than 100 injuries around the world. The cars, trucks and SUVs that are being recalled were made from 2002 until 2011.
Takata claims that there are no reported failures with any of the vehicles being recalled. They are issuing this recall according to the age of the vehicles and the chances of being exposed to higher levels of humidity. Some owners of these vehicles may not get their airbags replaced for several years.
Before this recall, automakers had to recall more than 50 million vehicles with these airbags.
Japan’s transportation authority stated that the vehicle manufacturers will recall seven million in Japan and now the worldwide total is nearing 70 million.
Before this latest announcement 14 automakers including Honda had ordered nearly 30 million inflators to be recalled. At least 2.3 million of the 12 million in this latest recall have had earlier notices about the dangers of the existing airbags.
Toyota reported that it will recall 1.65 million vehicles and Subaru will recall 400,000 in the US.
The problem with the Takata airbags stems from the company’s use of ammonium nitrate. This compound can become unstable over several years or when it is exposed to humidity. Takata has been tinkering with the compound’s make up for years, and eventually settled on a drying agent that increases stability. The new recall includes inflators that lack the drying agent.
Auto industry experts say that the expansion of the recall shows that the use of ammonium nitrate was a serious safety risk. The company most likely chose to use this potent compound because it is inexpensive.
Back in 2008 when the first Takata airbag recall affected about 4000 vehicles, the company stated that the problems were not due to the design of the inflator or the ammonium nitrate. Rather, they blamed manufacturing flaws and problems with quality control.
However, internal documents at the firm stated that some managers had doubts and were discarding test results that showed inflator failure. There also is evidence that the company was manipulating data to line up with safety requirements.
It was only in May 2015 that Takata admitted that its products were faulty. Then, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the company until 2018 to show that the new inflators were safe with the new drying agent.
That agency fined Takata $70 million and that could be increased to more than $100 million if the firm fails to meet the terms of the consent order. As that penalty was levied, federal regulators stated that the company had shown testing reports with inaccurate data.
The latest recall is just the start of the problems for Takata; the state of Hawaii has taken the auto parts maker to court, as it accuses it of covering up the airbag defect. It is demanding a $10,000 penalty for every car owner that has been affected in the state.
This is the first state to sue Takata over the airbags. The lawsuit also includes Honda, and demands that all automakers do much more to increase awareness of the dangers of these airbags.
The lawsuit in HI states that its car owners are at higher risk for airbag failures because the state has higher temperatures and humidity.
The state is not currently seeking compensation for people injured by the airbags. Rather, it is demanding that the company provide funds to car owners who have been affected by the safety recall. There have not been any airbag ruptures reported in the state yet.
Approximately 70,000 cars have been affected by the recall in HI. This means that the lawsuit could cost Takata and Honda up to $700 million each.
This lawsuit by Hawaii could be a harbinger of more lawsuits to come by other states. Takata also is facing a Justice Department investigation, personal injury claims and also a class action lawsuit.