It hasn’t been a cushy year for Japanese airbag maker Takata, which, after much wrangling with regulators, was responsible for the product defect in 19 million recalled vehicles sold by more than a dozen automakers. It also just recently had to pay $70 million following a long-running probe of the way the supplier handled the safety problem, which involved exploding airbags that sent shrapnel flying directly into the faces and necks of unwitting drivers and passengers.
Now, another 5 million vehicles are being recalled by numerous automakers for yet another faulty airbag issue. There are allegations that, yet again, the defect has long been known, but was left unaddressed by those in the auto industry.
The New York Times reports this time, the supplier is Continental Automotive Systems, a company out of Germany. According to federal safety regulators, the problem is there are semiconductors inside the airbag that could corrode, resulting in the airbags deploying inadvertently or failing to deploy at all. CAS reportedly knew about this problem way back in 2008, but, according to a spokeswoman for the firm, it is the job of the automakers to issue a recall. The company said it clearly informed automakers of this issue.
But no recall was announced. CAS then went about quietly altering the designs, which were changed by 2008. However, even when it changed the designs, it never informed regulators of the previous issue.
To date, auto manufacturers say there are at least nine injuries they’ve linked to this particular defect. The actual number of car accident injuries relating to this defect is almost certainly higher. Chances are, there are a considerable number of victims who have no idea their injuries resulted from this problem.
U.S. federal law mandates that immediately after manufacturers become aware of a safety problem, it has to notify the government regulators of plans for a recall. This has to happen in a span of five days from notification, or else the manufacturer faces substantial civil fines and penalties.
The two manufacturers that have thus far issued recalls are Honda and Fiat Chrysler. Volvo Trucks and Mazda may also have these defective units, but they have said they have only just started an investigation.
The fact that this defect was known about for some time and failed to disclose it to regulators or the public is appalling, but it’s not especially surprising. For example, Honda knew about the possible defects with Takata airbags back in 2004. But Takata didn’t notify regulators and neither did Honda. It would be another four years before 4,000 vehicles were recalled.
Now, that problem has grown to necessitate the recall of 24 million vehicles from 14 different automakers. They’ve been tied to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Because recall rates tend to be so slow – and the industry wasn’t equipped to handle this massive of a recall – many defective airbags are still in use.
In this latest recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first launched an inquiry into the problem last summer, following a 2008 crash involving a Honda Accord that resulted in a personal injury lawsuit. The control unit in the airbag was analyzed, and it was determined that it had malfunctioned.
It’s believed that about half of the 5 million vehicles recalled are in the U.S.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Yet Another Airbag Recall Will Affect Five Million, Feb. 4, 2016, By Hiroko Tabuchi and Christopher Jensen, The New York Times
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