You may have heard about the recent recall of millions of vehicles due to defective airbags. Generally speaking, when an auto part has been recalled, customers are contacted and the part is replaced free of charge—in most cases, before the malfunction causes an accident.
But in this case, the Japanese company Takata is facing fines, investigation, and potential legal action as a result of allegations that the company knew its product was defective—and dangerous—but did hid the evidence in order to continue making the product.
What Drivers Should Know About Defective Takata Airbags
There is speculation that Takata investigated the safety of its airbags as early as 2004, after a driver was killed in a vehicle equipped with its device. As the airbag deployed, part of the metal inflater broke off and caused extensive lacerations to the driver’s face. Inspectors also found tears in the airbag that may have caused it to malfunction. In response, Takata allegedly conducted secret tests on 50 of its airbags collected from vehicles in scrapyards, and found that the steel inflaters cracked and ruptured in at least two of the airbags.
Rather than issue a recall, Takata responded to these test results by:
After three months of testing, employees said they were instructed to immediately discontinue the tests and destroy all data. Video evidence, the airbags themselves, inflation devices, and even prototypes of solutions engineers had designed were thrown out, according to one employee.
Lying to automakers.
The fatal 2004 crash that led to Takata’s secret testing involved a 2002 Honda Accord. A spokesman for Honda has said that the automaker was assured by Takata that what happened in the fatal 2004 crash was an anomaly.
Since Takata’s products are used across many different types of vehicles, the risk of potential injury is overwhelming. Automakers estimate that Takata’s faulty airbags have caused at least four deaths and 139 injuries, 37 of which involved metal or chemicals spraying into the victim’s face.
As one of the leading makers of airbags nationwide, Takata was struggling to meet demand when problems arose, leading to further quality control issues. Internal Takata documents—including emails, photos, and videos—demonstrate employees’ concerns that airbags were often delivered to automakers wet or damaged due to work errors. One surveillance video shows a forklift dropping a stack of airbag units, only to have them reloaded and shipped out without proper inspection.
Could Your Car Be Equipped With a Faulty Airbag?
Takata began recalling the faulty product in 2008, four years after it first confirmed the existing dangers of its airbags. While over 14-million vehicles across 11 different automakers have been recalled, many more are still on the road—and some may have led to injuries and death for someone you know.
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