Airbags manufactured by Takata Corporation could explode and spray metal shrapnel into the occupants, causing death and/or serious injuries. Until recently, all fatalities occurred in Honda vehicles (Accords and Civics) apparently in the model years 2001-2005. Recently however, deaths occurred in two separate incidents in 2013 and 2014 Chevy Cruzes.
According to recent reports, the propellant in Takata’s airbag degrades and causes portions of the dual stage inflator to tear loose from its brackets, blasting pieces of the housings (metal released when the airbags brackets fail) into the faces and chests of the driver and passengers. Apparently, moist air (humidity) causes the propellant to degrade and can lead to the exploding airbag problem.
This explains why airbag manufacturers have their inflator plants located in desert regions of the United States and Mexico. In any event, airbags are not designed to explode and shoot metal shards into human beings, and the problem is likely caused by both manufacturing and design defects.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating the problem. Questions have arisen as to when Takata (and Honda) actually first knew about the dangerous airbags. In 2008, Honda recalled a very small number of vehicles due to the Takata airbags. However, reports have surfaced that they were aware of the problem as early as 2004. The New York Times reported that Takata engineers conducted secret tests on their airbags in 2004 after an incident in Alabama where one of their airbags ruptured.
Takata’s engineers were alarmed by what they found, but instead of alerting regulators (such as NHTSA), they were told by Takata executives to delete the test data from their computers and dispose of the airbag inflators in the trash.
Over 11 million vehicles in the U.S and 17 million globally have been recalled for the potential airbag defect. In addition to Honda, other manufacturers issuing recalls for the airbags include Toyota, BMW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Nissan, Ford and General Motors.
NHTSA has issued a “Special Order” to Honda, opening an investigation regarding Honda’s failure to report.
If you or a loved one has been injured by an exploding airbag, please contact the Law Office of Gary C. Eto. Gary is an experienced product liability attorney who has successfully handled numerous design and manufacturing defect lawsuits against automobile manufacturers for the past three decades.