The Takata airbag defect was, for a time, overshadowed by the contemporaneous GM ignition switch defect. Over time, however, it became clear that safety regulators and government processes had missed not one but two massive product safety defects. However, the worst aspect of these vehicle defects was the fact that they each existed for at least a decade before regulators sounded the alarm and a recall was issued.
This means that each defect had years to work its way into an array of products produced by nearly all the major auto manufacturers. Rather than affecting a single model or make, each defect was allowed to fester and grow until its impact was pervasive in the industry. The significant lag in the discovery of these defects not only means that more vehicles will be affected but also that many vehicles will never be repaired. Placing a company’s bottom line before appropriate quality control and safety procedures will likely mean that drivers and passengers will continue to suffer wholly preventable injuries and deaths.
How Does a Serious Safety Defect Remain Unnoticed for a Decade or More?
Many people are rightfully shocked and surprised to find that modern engineering and manufacturing practices could allow for product defects to linger for a decade or more. Most American consumers assume that manufacturing processes have become so advanced and sophisticated that quality control processes would detect any unacceptable product variances or issues. Unfortunately, testing and other procedures intended to catch errors don’t always work as planned. Organizational issues and other problems in the process can mean that warning signs and opportunities to take action are missed.
In the case of the GM ignition switch glitch, engineers actually did note a problem as far back as 2001, when engineers noted a similar issue during pre-production testing of the Saturn Ion. In 2003, the inquiry into the problem was closed after a technician noticed that removing a keyring could fix the problem. The problem was detected by GM engineers or technicians again in 2004 and in 2005. In 2007, the defect was linked to a fatal accident for the first time, but no action was taken.
In June 2013, a GM engineer involved in the company’s development of the Cobalt indicated at a deposition that GM made “a business decision not to fix this problem.” By the end of 2013, GM would admit that its ignition switch defect was to blame for at least 13 deaths. From this point on, revelation after revelation revealed that the ignition switch problem was far larger than originally believed.
The fact that GM failed to act when opportunities to do so presented themselves was particularly troubling. However, most people believed that this failure was due to organizational failures and communications issues rather than any plan or scheme. Unfortunately, allegations regarding the Takata defect do not characterize automakers in a forging sense.
Victims of Takata Airbag Allege Five Automakers Also Knew About Takata Defect
Unfortunately, the latest development in the dual auto defect scandals involves serious and troubling allegations by injury victims of the Takata airbag inflators. These injury victims or their family members now allege that Takata along with five major automakers knew about the airbag defects and their dangers for years, but continued to utilize the defective inflators to maintain profitability. The claimants allege that Ford, Honda, Nissan, BMW, and Toyota were all aware of the defect and problems but continued to use Takata inflators because the devices were inexpensive. Furthermore, the companies continued to use the product despite knowledge of risks because they feared that if they went with an alternate product, supply would be insufficient and result in lost sales.
These allegations come in stark contrast to the picture that automakers had presented. Previously, auto manufacturers had claimed that they were blameless for the ignition switch defect because Takata had withheld or concealed information about the problem, its frequency, and the injuries it could cause. However, the allegations and evidence presented by these claimants seems to indicate that the automakers were aware of the dangers before the airbags were installed into millions of vehicles. If proven in court, this would mean that the Takata defect is yet another example of companies placing profits before the safety of its customers and clients.
Were You Injured by a Defective Product and Need a Philadelphia Product Liability Lawyer?
If you have suffered a serious injury due to a defective car, truck, or other product the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to fight for you. At The Reiff Law Firm, we stand up for injury and fight to hold careless, negligent, or reckless parties accountable for the injuries and other damages they cause. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation with our legal team, please call (215) 246-9000 today.