Over 46 million Takata airbags have been recalled because of the possibility the airbags may rupture upon deployment, sending shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle and potentially causing serious and even life-threatening injuries. So far, defective Takata airbags have been linked with at least 16 deaths and over 180 injuries worldwide.
Takata and automakers have been working on repairs and replacements for a while now, but according to the Daily Hornet, over 65 percent of recalled inflators have not yet been fixed. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is urging automakers to move more quickly in making replacements. Florida is one of the states believed to be at high-risk for Takata airbag explosions because the propellant in the airbag inflators—ammonium nitrate—can become unstable over time in areas of high humidity and high temperatures.
Demand for New Airbag Inflators Greater Than Supply
Many consumers have received notices that their vehicles need to have their airbag inflators replaced, but most were then told that replacement parts were unavailable. Because of the massive size of this recall, Takata has had trouble meeting demand for replacement parts. They’ve been working together with automakers like Honda and Toyota to get other airbag suppliers to help in making new inflators.
How are customers to know when these parts are finally ready? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set up a website where owners can find out (www.AirbagRecall.com). On this site, consumers can determine if they need a repair, whether or not their vehicle is a high-risk vehicle, and the status of replacement parts.
Nationwide repairs began in 2015, but so far only 15.8 million inflators have been fixed, out of 46.2 million recalled.
New Airbags Not Necessarily Better Than Old
Another concern in this recall process is that some of the replacement airbags are no different than the initial problematic airbags, except that they are new. Independent tests have indicated that it’s only as a vehicle ages that the airbag inflator may become unstable, but even if these newer airbags are less risky than those in the recalled vehicles, they will still have to be replaced again in the future.
Because of the lack of supply, some automakers are still using faulty Takata airbags in their new vehicles, too. Nelson cited an independent report noting that at least four automakers, including Chrysler, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen, acknowledged using faulty airbags in new vehicles.
CBS News reported in June 2016 that these four automakers were still installing inflators of the type that had been recalled by the NHTSA. Automakers are allowed to do so because ruptures are linked with age of the inflator, but the Senate Commerce Committee democrats called for an end to the practice. Customers who buy the new cars with the defective inflators will have to turn around and get those inflators replaced starting in 2018, when the NHTSA requires all of these inflators to be recalled.
Automakers Significantly Affected by Takata Airbag Recalls
Automakers have been significantly affected by these recalls, and have had to take repairs into their own hands in many cases. Earlier this year, Takata pled guilty to wire fraud and agreed to pay $1 billion to resolve a federal investigation into their airbags. Some of that money will go to help automakers cover their expenses.
Just a few weeks ago, automakers also agreed to pay consumers $533 million to cover economic losses due to the reduced value of vehicles with Takata airbags. BMW, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota were involved in that settlement.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.