Takata has created a mess and there is no other way to say it. Now in the midst of the largest automotive safety recall in U.S. history, Takata has been hit with a record $70 million dollar fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that could increase to $200 million if Takata does not comply with NHTSA’s recall requirements. On top of that economic hit, Takata is now seeing its biggest customers, such as Honda and Toyota, refuse to use its airbags. Takata’s airbags are being blamed for at least eight deaths and numerous injuries. Sadly, these deaths and injuries could have been avoided. It turns out that Takata knew that its airbag inflators were exploding since 2004, but instead of issuing a timely recall, Takata misrepresented and manipulated test data; refused to disclose the defect to auto manufacturers who were purchasing the airbags; and then covered up the defect from being discovered by consumers.
Now that a recall has been issued for 19 million vehicles, Takata is facing an even bigger problem – manufacturing the replacement parts quickly enough to comply with the recall. NHTSA estimates that the initial phase of this recall will not be completed until 2019. Why is it taking so long for Takata to replace parts that it knew were defective more than 10 years ago? Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies Inc., which examines product hazards, explains that this recall is more complex than other recalls because “It involves multiple manufacturers and a variety of both cars and airbags. Plus, manufacturers allowed it to grow exponentially rather than solve it when they first investigated it.” Takata’s stalling tactics have created such a backlog of vehicles needing to be repaired that the recall is not doing what it is supposed to do – quickly removing the defect. Instead, consumers are forced to drive around defective vehicles for months – possibly years – before they can be repaired.
With its biggest corporate consumers jumping ship and leaving the economic future of Takata in question, it remains to be seen whether all vehicles covered in the recall will actually be repaired. Further, with NHTSA’s funding being cut by $15 million per year, these recalls will undoubtedly be difficult to enforce, especially if Takata goes under. Takata’s manipulative and deceptive corporate atmosphere has left consumers questioning whether this corporate giant’s handling of recalls will be any different than the way it handled the defect in the first place. If you need more information on this matter, contact Stephanie Monplaisir, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Product Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Stephanie.Monplaisir@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: USA Today and Bloomberg News
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