Close to 3.5 million vehicles were recalled last year by automobile manufacturers Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota, owing to potential airbag failure. The airbags in all of these cars were manufactured by Takata, a company whose airbags have been recalled several times since 2001. Yet, curiously, Takata claims that it only discovered this problem in 2011.
Defective Airbag According to Safety Research and Strategies, Inc. (SRS), Takata acknowledged that these airbags, if improperly pressured, can “rupture, igniting fires or propelling metal fragments that could travel upwards toward the windshield or downwards toward the passenger’s footwell,” but failed to indicate that the shrapnel from these airbags could also shoot straight across and hit occupants in the chest.
As an airbag defect and automobile safety lawyer, I question Takata’s claim that 2011 was the first time it became aware of this issue. The recent recall associated with Takata airbags is the sixth since the first recall by Isuzu in 2001. There were subsequent recalls in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011—all related to the problem of airbags exploding with too much force.
Our skilled and experienced airbag defect lawyers have investigated problems with airbags in several vehicles by Toyota, Nissan, and Honda. In most cases, the automakers claimed there was no problem with the airbags, despite expert testimony to the contrary.
Raising Concerns about Airbag Safety and Recalls
Consumer safety advocate Sean Kane raises concerns and issues in his safety record blog, noting that the slow-moving rolling recall of Takata airbags raises more questions than it answers. According to Kane, Honda’s ever-changing explanations suggest that the inflating and rupture problems of these airbags are due to more than one manufacturing glitch. He also questions the depth of the involvement of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA ), claiming that NHTSA began asking questions in 2009 without actually assigning the recall investigation an official recall query number. His safety record blog, an excellent source of information on auto safety, research, and investigation, notes that Honda airbag inflator ruptures have occurred with great frequency over the years.
In the 2001 recall, Isuzu reported in a Defect and Noncompliance Notice that the passenger side front airbags in three vehicles, a 2000 and 2001 Rodeo and an MY 2001 Honda Passport, were constructed with too much generant. This was a limited recall. Then, in 2008, Honda recalled certain 2001 Accord and Civic vehicles in order to replace airbags that could “produce excessive internal pressure,” causing “the inflator to rupture,” and spraying metal fragments through the airbag cushion. Honda claimed that they learned of the problem via a June 2007 claim. In 2009, Honda expanded the recall to 440,000 MY 2001, 2002 Civic, Accord and Acura vehicles, after receiving claims of “unusual deployments.”
The reasons given for Takata airbags spewing metal upon impact are varied. In 2001, the problem was attributed to an excess of generant in new vehicles. In 2008, it was explained as an excess of internal pressure caused by the handling of the propellant during the assembly of the airbag inflator module. Subsequently, it was ascribed to a manufacturing process that occurred before assembling the inflators.
In 2010, Honda/Takata revealed that there were actually two separate manufacturing processes used to prepare the propellant. One was verified as being within specifications, but the other was not. In 2013, Honda/Takata discovered that the propellant produced in 2001-2002 could be out-of-spec without the plant knowing it.
All of this is very confusing for consumers, laypersons, and even those who specialize in airbag defects. However, one thing is for sure: further investigation and confirmation is necessary in order to better protect consumers, purchasers, and operators from potential catastrophic injury or death.
Get In Contact With a Knowledgeable Philadelphia Product Liability Lawyer
Jeffrey M. Reiff is an airbag defect and auto product defect lawyer who has been recognized by his peers as one of the top attorneys in Pennsylvania. He has been recognized by National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers and has devoted much of his practice to automotive safety, representing the interests of those wrongfully injured or killed due to the negligence and manufacture of defective products and product components.