In the past two years, over 7.8 million vehicles from 10 automakers have been recalled for a deadly airbag malfunction. Since 2008, numerous automobile manufacturers have issued waves of recalls related to airbags manufactured by Japanese firm Takata. The recalls are designed to fix similar airbag defects in nearly 10 million vehicles in the United States alone. The near-decade-long succession of recalls and large number of affected vehicles complicate the recall issue, and consumers are understandably concerned. The issue has drawn such attention that Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts went so far as to call each Takata airbag “a ticking time bomb.”
The airbags at issue could endanger you or your family members. Both drivers and passengers are at risk in certain Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors vehicles. In the event of a crash, the Takata airbags can explode, propelling metal fragments at both passengers and drivers. As a result, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has urged owners to act immediately on recall notices to replace defective airbags.
This defect has already been linked to at least five deaths and numerous injuries. Due to the widespread nature of the recall, consumers are encountering many delays in correcting the defect. In fact, of the many vehicles originally fitted with faulty airbags few have been repaired so far.
THE DEFECT, THE DANGERS AND WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Takata is the world’s second-largest airbag maker, with 22% of the market. Honda vehicles make up nearly 5 million of the affected vehicles. One Honda executive, Rick Schostek, recently admitted to Nevada Senator Dean Heller that there are risks when driving any recalled vehicle, inferring that Honda does not believe a vehicle that hasn’t had the airbags replaced is a safe vehicle to drive.
During an accident, the inflator inside the airbags can explode, spraying metal shards at vehicle occupants. The root cause of this fracture remains unknown; however, many speculate that the chemical propellant in the heart of the airbags deteriorates due to moisture, production flaws or the passage of time – creating an unstable mix that explodes with more force than intended. Others believe that the problems result from rust or other deterioration of the inflator itself. While the exact cause of the problem seems to remain unknown, reports indicate Takata has known of the problems for nearly a decade. Both Takata and U.S. automakers have failed the consumer public by inadequately warning of the risks associated with the faulty airbags.
As recently as October 2014, a 51-year-old woman from Orlando died after her 2001 Honda Accord collided with another vehicle. Her injuries were so severe – resembling stab wounds — that the local sheriff’s office originally investigated the case as a homicide. The Florida Highway Patrol and NHTSA later examined the airbag and determined that the inflator had ruptured, causing the release of metal fragments that struck her in the face, neck, and upper chest.
The first recall on the faulty airbags wasn’t issued until April 2013, despite the assertions that Takata knew the bags were dangerous as early as 2004. Additional recalls have been announced over the span of 2014. The scope of the recalls is so significant that manufacturer Toyota has acknowledged that replacement supplies are largely unavailable. According to news reports, Toyota has instructed dealers that, if a replacement airbag is not available, dealerships should disable the passenger-side airbag and put a “Do Not Sit Here” decal in the car until the replacement can be installed.
Most recently, on November 18, 2014, NHTSA called on automakers to expand the recall nationwide, a scope that Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata’s Senior Vice President for Global Quality assurance is reluctant to accept. NHTSA’s interim administrator has promised that “Unless Takata and manufacturers quickly agree to this recall, NHTSA will use the full extent of its statutory powers to ensure vehicles that use the same or similar air bag inflator are recalled.”
The same Takata executive referred to these accidents as anomalies when addressing questions and concerns at a Senate Committee. Takata and many manufacturers first believed that only vehicles from certain geographic regions experiencing long periods of high humidity were exposed to the risks of the defect. In light of the discovery that multiple serious injuries have been reported in regions that aren’t typically humid, NHTSA wants to be aggressive in expanding the recall nationally.
The scope of vehicles affected by this recall is still unknown; however, many of the vehicles affected were manufactured between the years 2001 and 2011. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee along with NHTSA have growing concerns about when these manufacturers first learned of the defective airbag inflators and what steps were or are being taken to prevent further injury to consumers. Takata’s global quality chief admits that as early as May 2005 the supplier was aware of problems with its car airbags and that in 2007 the company shared these problems with automakers and U.S. safety regulators. This two-year delay was too late for the many people who suffered serious injury or even death.
Even now, nearly a decade after the discovery of this defect, consumers are being hurt.
List of Potentially Affected U.S. Vehicles.
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
2013 – 2014 Cruze
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
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
*This list is not comprehensive and is subject to change – we encourage you to use VIN search through your manufacturer's website to confirm whether you specific vehicle is subject to any recall or to confer with an experienced attorney.