Auto Products Liability
“Holey moley!” That’s what I thought when I read that Honda got hit with a $70 million fine. The Obama administration imposed this history-making fine because the Japanese automaker failed to report to regulators roughly 1,700 complaints about its vehicles, claiming serious injuries and deaths. Moreover, the automaker apparently failed to report warranty claims. The complaints spanned an 11 year period, beginning in 2003.
This past November, Honda admitted that it didn’t report the aforementioned complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). When did its executives learn of these omissions? It was in 2011 — three years ago.
Because the company also failed to report customer satisfaction/warranty claims (same 11 year period), NHTSA doubled the $35 million fine. One was for the failure to report the death/injury complaints; the other $35 mil for its failure to report the warranty/customer satisfaction claims. Ouch.
In case you’re wondering, yes – some of the complaints related to the Takata air bags along with other defective parts.
Takata, a Japanese airbag manufacturer, whose executives were questioned in House & Senate hearings a couple weeks ago, remains defiant in expanding any recall of its airbags. Its faulty airbags have been ruled as the cause of at least five deaths and about 50 injuries. However, Takata refused to comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s request to issue a national recall.
The Detroit News reports that NHTSA will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles along with those already recalled.
The first act in bringing the named parties to trial is a formal demand letter issued to all concerned. Upon refusal, the NHTSA will file a suit against each party in U.S. District Court, a process that could last for months, if not years. NHTSA agency’s deputy administrator David Friedman explained in an interview, “This is a serious safety issue, and Takata needs to move forward. If Takata fights us all the way to the end, I want to be able to walk into a courtroom with as close to a slam dunk as I can get.”
In the meantime, Toyota, Honda, GM and seven other car makers recently met in a hotel conference room in a Detroit area airport hotel to address the risky airbags. As Takata has dug in its heels, the automakers are understandably concerned aboutthe industry wide issue that calls for a “coordinated, comprehensive testing program” to identify exactly what are the problems with the airbags. The automakers and NHTSA are conducting independent investigations.
Doesn’t look like this problem with dangerous Takata air bags is going to blow over for quite some time (pardon any unintended puns).
Airbag manufacturer Takata has been in the news a lot lately. But the saying “no news is bad news” doesn’t apply for Takata these days. Their dangerous airbags are a big problem for them as it is for Honda and Toyota. Moreover, there are plenty of auto manufacturers that Takata has supplied, which are nervous. On the heels of some enormous settlements/fines with GM and Toyota, automakers including BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Subaru and Nissan are facing the potential of auto products liability lawsuits.
What’s so bad about Takata airbags? Well, if you don’t mind getting shrapnel hurled at your face, neck or chest if your airbags deploy in a collision, then I suppose you’re fine. But a driver in a low speed collision had shrapnel fly into her eye socket in Florida. Also in Florida, another had her throat gashed with stab-like wounds that made the police think initially that the passenger was murdered. Turns out that it was the metal flying from a Takata airbag explosion.
Here’s what’s extra worrisome for those who have these cars in the more humid areas of the country–ahem, like the Pacific Northwest and like the Gulf Coast regions: The danger is heightened when there is more moisture in the air. When a Takata airbag, especially in an older model vehicle, inflates during a car accident, it can tear loose and blow out pieces of its housing that would fly into the car occupants’ face and/or upper bodies. As horrifying as this all sounds, car owners have been lackadaisical about responding to these recall notices. GM reported that only about 10% of its affected vehicles were brought in.
If there is a silver lining in any of this, it’s hopefully that car owners will take action and take their cars to address potentially faulty Takata airbags. If your car is on the recall list (or you’re just understandably concerned and cautious because you don’t want shrapnel to gash your face/neck/chest in a crash), call NHTSA’s safety hotline (1-888-327-4236) or use your car’s VIN to see if you’re affected by this or any other reported problem.
Below is a tally taken since October 22, 2014, but more will likely join the list:
BMW: 627,615 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible
Chrysler: 371,309 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2008 Dodge Ram 1500
2005 – 2008 Dodge Ram 2500
2006 – 2008 Dodge Ram 3500
2006 – 2008 Dodge Ram 4500
2008 – Dodge Ram 5500
2005 – 2008 Dodge Durango
2005 – 2008 Dodge Dakota
2005 – 2008 Chrysler 300
2007 – 2008 Chrysler Aspen
Ford: 58,669 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2004 – Ranger
2005 – 2006 GT
2005 – 2007 Mustang
General Motors: undetermined total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2005 Pontiac Vibe
2005 – Saab 9-2X
Honda: 5,051,364 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
2006 – Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL
2005 – Acura RL
Mazda: 64,872 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2007 Mazda6
2006 – 2007 MazdaSpeed6
2004 – 2008 Mazda RX-8
2004 – 2005 MPV
2004 – B-Series Truck
Mitsubishi: 11,985 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2004 – 2005 Lancer
2006 – 2007 Raider
Nissan: 694,626 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2004 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2004 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2004 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – 2005 Infiniti FX35/FX45
Subaru: 17,516 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2005 Baja
2003 – 2005 Legacy
2003 – 2005 Outback
2003 – 2005 Baja
2004 – 2005 Impreza
Toyota: 877,000 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2005 Lexus SC
2002 – 2005 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2005 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2005 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2005 Toyota Tundra