Honda Recalls 1.6 Million Vehicles for Defective Takata Airbags
A class-action lawsuit representing victims of defective Takata airbags asserted that at least four automakers knew for years that the airbags were dangerous, but covered it up to save on costs. According to an article in The New York Times, a criminal probe led by the Justice Department has thus far painted automakers as unsuspecting victims defrauded by a supplier that manipulated safety data in order to conceal a deadly defect. So far, the faulty Takata airbag inflators have been linked to 11 fatalities and more than 100 injuries just in the United States.
Automakers Were Complicit
These fresh allegations have been made against Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota as part of a class-action lawsuit filed in Florida. The lawsuit points to a deeper involvement by automakers that used Takata’s faulty airbags for many years. Honda has already denied these new allegations. The other automakers have remained quiet saying they would “respond through legal channels.”
This class-action lawsuit came hours before Takata pleaded guilty Monday under a deal announced last month. The airbag manufacturer pleaded guilty to wire fraud for providing false data, which is rare for businesses accused of wrongdoing. Last month, federal prosecutors also said they had charged three Takata executives with fabricating test data and fined the company $1 billion.
The class-action lawsuit is a response to a court document filed by automakers last week stating that Takata alone is responsible. Plaintiffs argue that automakers knew much more than they’re letting on and that they were in fact accomplices in the cover-up. Takata has only set up a total of $125 million for victims.
Extent of the Cover-Up
The filing by the plaintiffs as part of the lawsuit shows emails and memos from Honda, which show that in 1999 the automaker was intimately involved in developing a problematic propellant used in Takata’s airbag. When the airbag deployed, the inflators broke apart expelling shards of metal into the passenger compartment. Honda’s documents show the automaker chose Takata’s airbags because they were cheap. The filing also cites internal documents from Ford, Nissan and Toyota indicating that cost was a factor in their decision to go with Takata airbags.
As auto product liability attorneys we attempt each time to shine the light on automakers who try to cover up defects. It happens more often than you know. And the motive is almost always to save on costs. That, to us, is unacceptable. It is never okay to put profits before people.