Airbag manufacturer Takata has been in the news over the course of the past few months as scrutiny of their malfunctioning airbags has increased. The company recently settled one of their lawsuits with a family who had a member paralyzed and later die to to injuries caused by the airbag. The settlement was made just moments before a hearing was supposed to take place where the judge could have made Takata executives testify in court. Many people were surprised at the settlement, including the lawyer representing the family of the victim, Patricia Mincey.
Mincey was paralyzed from the neck down after the Takata airbag in her 2001 Honda Civic forcefully inflated after a collision on June 15, 2014. The airbag was among those recalled by Honda less than a week later.
Takata’s airbags have caused several deaths and numerous injuries to drivers and passengers, causing automakers to recall nearly 60 million vehicles in the US alone.
While the exact numbers on the settlement have not been released, Takata has handled all of their previous lawsuits with swift action. The company is currently trying to repair their image and restore consumers confidence in their products. With airbags being a vital safety component in any car, it may take the company a very long time to be trusted by car drivers and manufacturers alike.
According to a New York Times Article, the mass recalls of Takata airbags gained new urgency last month, when federal safety regulators warned that airbags in more than 300,000 older Honda and Acura vehicles were at an unacceptably high risk of exploding and needed to be replaced immediately.
Takata also faces a class-action lawsuit brought by owners of affected cars and is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
The automotive industry has been buzzing lately surrounding the massive airbag crisis caused by Takata, the worlds largest airbag and seat belt supplier. The airbags installed in cars from 2002-2015 have been reported to deploy explosively, injuring hundreds and causing 10 casualties in the U.S.
According to a Consumer Reports article, Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Volkswagen confirm in a report from Florida Senator Bill Nelson that they are selling some new vehicles with airbags that contain Takata’s ammonium nitrate-based propellant in driver and passenger frontal airbag inflators without a chemical drying agent, also known as a desiccant. These vehicles will have to be recalled by 2018.
The estimated number of recalls needed by 2019 is over 75 million vehicles ranging from 14 different automotive manufacturers. These enormous number of recalls is not only harmful to consumers, it also hurts the entire automotive industry. However, with increased scrutiny being focused on the quality and safety of the airbags, they should become safer in the future so these recalls do not continue to occur.
On April 7, 2016 a 17 year old girl in Texas was killed when shrapnel from an exploding Takata airbag impaled her neck. The fatality marked the 10th life lost due to the malfunctioning airbags. To date, over 8 million airbags have been replaced, but there are still millions more that need to be addressed. The process of replacing all of the airbags that need recalls could take many years, and new cases of faulty airbags continue to be reported frequently. This crisis could open the market for new manufacturers to dethrone Takata as the top dog in the airbag field moving forward. It will be very interesting to see how Takata handles this scenario, their stock prices have plummeted since the reports came out. This story is one that will continue to be in the news as more information comes out.