Much of the news this year has been dominated by the vehicle recall scandal involving General Motors. Central to this scandal were allegations that certain GM officials knew about dangerous ignition switch defects starting in the early 2000s, yet recalls were not issued until earlier this year.
Although it has not received as much attention, there is a similar recall scandal currently in progress involving allegedly defective air bags used by a number of automakers, including Honda. The air bags, which are manufactured by a Japanese company called Takata, have been known to rupture and essentially explode, sometimes sending shrapnel into the cab of the car.
Honda learned about the first reported incident in 2004, in which an Alabama man was injured by the flying metal fragments. The company then learned of three additional ruptures in 2007, but waited to issue a small-scale recall in late 2008. Both Honda and Takata tried to keep the issue quiet, which ultimately delayed recalls by other automakers who used Takata airbags.
But word got out as it always does, and this recall is now widespread. To date, 11 automakers have recalled approximately 14 million vehicles, which is five times as many vehicles as were recalled by GM for faulty ignition switches. All told, Takata’s defective air bags have been linked to 139 injuries and two deaths.
When auto manufacturers learn of a problem or a few incidents with vehicles, issuing a recall isn’t necessarily the right course of action in all cases. Sometimes, defects are isolated, which means that issuing a recall would unnecessarily inconvenience vehicle owners.
But in cases like these, defects were kept quiet and recalls were delayed far longer than they should have been. It seems clear that the auto companies were much more concerned about their profits than the safety of their customers.
If you have been seriously injured or a loved one has been killed by a vehicle that may have been defective, it’s important understand your rights and options. Please share your story with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Source: The New York Times, “Air Bag Flaw, Long Known to Honda and Takata, Led to Recalls,” Hiroko Tabuchi, Sept. 11, 2014