Back in February, we wrote about National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) tougher, more skeptical approach to car and truck makers and auto parts manufacturers. This new approach by incoming NHTSA Administrator, Mark Rosekind, replaced the largely deferential tack the agency had previously stuck with the companies it was charged with regulating. Under this new approach, NHTSA demanded answers from Takata regarding Takata’s more than 10 years of problems with its airbags and the chemical propellant used in its inflators. When Takata balked at NHTSA’s questions, NHTSA imposed a $14,000 a day fine until the company was forthcoming with the information sought by the regulator and rectified the defect with more aggressive measures. Since then, researchers have been able to determine the Takata airbag explosion causes.
These fines began to accumulate on Feb. 20 and continued to accrue until Tuesday, May 20, 2015. During this time, the fine accumulated to more than $1.2 million. On Tuesday, Takata and NHTSA jointly announced the expansion of the recall and other measures to prevent additional motorist deaths or injuries.
Takata’s Defective Airbag Inflators Can Launch Metal Shrapnel into the Air
The chemical that is used as a propellant to inflate the airbag rapidly following an impact can cause the airbag to deploy with excessive force. In some cases, this has caused the metal inflator itself to disintegrate and to be launched into the air at the driver or passenger. When sharp metal fragments are launched at high speeds towards the face and neck, catastrophic and life-altering injuries can occur. In fact, more than 100 known injuries and six deaths have already been reported. Hopefully, the agreement announced by NHTSA and Takata will allow the airbag manufacturer and automakers to move more swiftly in repairing vehicles so that additional injuries or deaths can be prevented.
Takata’s Defect Consent Order with NHTSA
Perhaps one of the most important parts of NHTSA’s deal with Takata is that it shows that the regulator is able and willing to challenge manufacturers who do not comply with NHTSA requests or orders. Unlike in 2009, when NHTSA opened a similar airbag inquiry only to close it after less than a year of investigation, this incident showed that NHTSA will not back down.
In the deal, Takata admitted that nearly 34 million cars, trucks and other vehicles had been equipped with defective airbags. As part of the consent order, Takata also agreed to cooperate fully with NHTSA’s ongoing investigation into the causes of the airbag defect. Under terms of the agreement, Takata-produced passenger-side airbags currently under a regional recall are now part of the national recall. Regulators expected this change to affect more than 16 million vehicles. Additionally, the nationwide recall already covering driver-side airbags was expanded further. This particular recall is expected to cover more than 17 million vehicles.
In all, the Takata airbag defect impacts more than 34 million cars, trucks, and other vehicles. At 34 million recalled vehicles, the Takata defective airbag recall is now the largest recall in U.S. history.
Previous Auto Recall Records Smashed
Before this recall smashed the previous record, the most expansive recall in U.S. history occurred in 1980. In 1980, Ford recalled more than 21 million cars and trucks due to faulty gear-shifters in vehicles equipped with automatic transmission. The defect could cause the affected vehicle to unexpected slip into reverse.
Furthermore, the Takata recall surpasses even recent major recalls. In 2000, the Firestone tire blowout recall resulted in recall notices for more than 2 million vehicles. In 2009 when the Toyota unintended acceleration defect came to light, it was shocking due nearly a decade of relatively few high-profile auto recalls. The recall would eventually result in more than 10 million recalled vehicles. Toyota also agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine for its actions in concealing the defect. Finally, in 2014 GM’s defective ignition switch recall made headlines for weeks on end. However, this recall only resulted in approximately 2.6 million recalled vehicles. In short, the Takata airbag defect is significantly more widespread than previous problems. It is also and potentially deadly.
Severely Injured Due to a Takata Airbag?
If you have suffered a severe injury or a loved one has been killed by a Takata airbag that deployed with too much force, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. To discuss your potential claim with an experienced automobile injury attorney, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000.