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Takata's Woes Continue With Bankruptcy Announcement

Steve Wagner

Takata Continues To Battle Airbag Recall Mess With Bankruptcy News

Japan’s Takata Corp is responsible for producing an estimated 70 million defective air bag inflators in the U.S. and another 30 million worldwide. The inflators, which fill up air bags in the event of a crash, can explode with too much force and spew metal shrapnel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that front air bags have saved 43,000 lives since they were required in the 1990s. Airbags assist in protecting a person’s head from striking the side of the car or rigid objects like trees or poles in a crash or the ground in the event of a rollover. Airbags are also very important in side impacts where a properly belted occupant can still be struck by an object in or entering the vehicle.

Takata is now responsible for at least 17 deaths worldwide and more than 180 injuries caused by the faulty inflators. According to Consumer Affairs, “At the heart of the problem is the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which in some cases has ignited with explosive force. If the inflator housing ruptures in a crash, metal shards from the airbag can be sprayed throughout the passenger cabin—a potentially disastrous outcome from a supposedly life-saving device.”

In 2015, Takata was the recipient of the largest-ever civil penalty imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for violations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The company remains at the center of the auto industry’s biggest ever product recall and has already paid a $25 million fine and $125 million to a victims’ compensation fund.

Understanding How An Airbag Works from Popular Science

Popular Science says there are several main parts of an airbag system: an accelerometer; a circuit; a heating element; an explosive charge; and the bag itself.

  1. The accelerometer keeps track of how quickly the speed of your vehicle is changing. When your car hits another car—or wall or telephone pole or deer—the accelerometer triggers the circuit.
  2. The circuit then sends an electrical current through the heating element, which is kind of like the ones in your toaster, except it heats up a whole lot quicker.
  3. The heating element ignites the charge, often solid pellets of sodium azide that fills the deflated nylon airbag (packed in your steering column, dashboard or car door) at about 200 miles per hour. The whole reaction takes a mere 1/25 of a second.

Takata Claims Bankruptcy, June 2017

Recent news of the Takata’s bankruptcy protection filing in both the U.S. and Japan has left consumers uneasy about the status of the recall since only about 38 percent of the recalled inflators have been replaced. Takata still needs to reach agreements with its carmaker clients on how to organize and distribute recall costs. Industry sources have said that recall costs could climb to about $10 billion. Takata will be bought for $1.6 billion, less the assets relating to the airbags, by U.S. based rival Key Safety Systems, a Michigan-based parts supplier. Money from the sale will go to pay claims against Takata, including a court-ordered $850 million that will reimburse some automakers for their recall expenses.

What Is Next For Recalled Vehicles

Vehicles made by 19 different automakers have been recalled. These automakers remain responsible for the safety of their vehicles, and most have been supporting and funding the recalls although repairs are expected to take through the end of the decade. Takata admits it is not clear how many of the airbags are still in vehicles on the roads.

The faulty airbags are believed to have been manufactured between 2000 and 2008 in Takata’s US factory. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a complete list of models covered by current and future Takata recalls Please note that the number of vehicles impacted by this recall could soon expand to another 85 million vehicles.

Cars and trucks made by 19 companies are included in the recall. The government says vehicles younger than six years old aren’t currently at risk of an air bag inflator rupture even if they’re in a high humidity region, because it takes time for the ammonium nitrate to degrade. But the risk grows as the vehicle ages.

The full “current” list can be found on the agency’s website but here is a general overview.

  • Acura
  • Audi (more than 387,000)
  • BMW (more than 1.97 million)
  • Buick
  • Cadillac
  • Chevrolet (more than 1.91 million, including Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Saab, and Saturn)
  • Chrysler
  • Daimler
  • Dodge/Ram (more than 5.64 million, including Chrysler, not including Daimler-built Sprinter)
  • Ferrari (more than 2820)
  • Fisker
  • Ford (3 million, including Lincoln and Mercury)
  • GMC
  • Honda (11.4 million, including Acura)
  • Infiniti
  • Jaguar
  • Jeep
  • Land Rover (more than 68,000)
  • Mazda (more than 733,000)
  • McLaren)
  • Mercedes-Benz (1,044,602, including Daimler)
  • Mercury
  • Mitsubishi (more than 105,000)
  • Nissan (more than 1,091,000, including Infiniti)
  • Pontiac (more than 300,000)
  • Saab
  • Saturn
  • Scion
  • Subaru (more than 380,000)
  • Tesla
  • Toyota (6 million, including Lexus and Scion)
  • Volkswagen (more than 680,000)

At all times, the government’s website also allows drivers to search for open recalls other than the Takata issue. Owners can simply input the car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, which can be found on the title or registration card, or on the driver’s side dash or door jam. Once they are through with that, the VIN check page will be available to review recalls.

Takata started to produce airbags in 1987. At one time, the company was extremely trustworthy to consumers and soon became the world’s No. two producer of the airbags and similar products. Takata also produces one-third of all seatbelts used in vehicles. It is said that airbags can only be fully effective when they are used in combination with seat belts.

Are You Safe? If Not, We Can Help!

Were you or a loved one seriously injured by an airbag or a faulty accessory or application in your vehicle? In the case of the Takata defect, most deaths occurred in accidents where all involved would typically have been expected to survive. Our attorneys at Wagner Reese are experienced with car accidents and product liability and are positioned to fight for you. If you believe a faulty airbag or other auto part caused your injury, call us today for a FREE consultation: 888-710-9377.

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