Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog

Takata Airbag Recall FAQ

Takata Airbag Recall FAQ

Numerous automakers have been recalling millions of vehicles this year, mostly manufactured prior to 2009, as a result of the defective airbags made by Japanese supplier Takata Corporation. In November 2014, federal safety regulators expanded the Takata airbag recall, requesting all automakers to conduct a national recall of affected vehicles.

What is the Takata Airbag Recall?

10 automakers, including BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota, have recalled over 14 million vehicles worldwide due to defective and dangerous airbags. At least five deaths and more than 30 injuries have been linked to the Takata airbag defect. This series of recalls covers front airbags for drivers and passengers. The total recall ranks it among the five biggest recalls in the auto industry’s history.

Why are these airbags dangerous?

The airbags, manufactured by Takata, are ejecting metal fragments that cause serious or fatal injuries for both drivers and passengers. The recalled Takata airbags contain a propellant, which may cause the airbag to rupture upon impact in a car accident and shoot out metal debris into the vehicle. Moisture may cause the propellant to become more combustible.

Why has the recall been expanded?

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) called on automakers to conduct a nationwide recall of vehicles affected by the defective Takata airbags. At first, the recall list included vehicles that were in high-humidity locations, like Florida, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. However, recent investigations have found that the airbags have harmed drivers and passengers in vehicles which lie outside of the initial recall regions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman stated, “We are following the data where it takes us. If Takata and the auto makers fail to expand the recall, we will make them do so. We have the ability to fine them and take whatever other action at our disposal under the law.”

How long did Takata know about this defect?

Takata reportedly knew of defects in its airbags a decade ago, conducting secret tests of the product, which showed dangerous flaws. Rather than alert federal safety regulators of this risk, Takata executives allegedly ordered engineers to delete test data.

Why are Takata airbags failing and not others?

According to the New York Times, the answer is in the propellant that Takata used in its airbags. Takata first began manufacturing airbag inflators in the United States in 1991 using a toxic compound known as sodium azide in the airbag propellant. However, it was found that this compound could potentially release toxic fumes in the vehicle when the airbag deploys. Takata then switched the airbag propellant compound to tetrazole in 1998, which was “promoted to automakers at the time as a safer, more environmentally friendly alternative,” as reported by the New York Times. Tetrazole was regarded as a reliable compound for inflating airbags; however, it costs more than other compounds. In spite of the availability of tetrazole, in 1999, Takata decided to develop a cheaper propellant based on the compound ammonium nitrate.

The engineering team raised objections to the new propellant because it was seen as more risky. “It was a question that came up: Ammonium nitrate propellant, won’t that blow up?” said Takata chemical engineer Michael Britton, the New York Times reports.

Lieff Cabraser attorney Robert Nelson discusses Takata airbag problem and defect

Learn more about the Takata Airbag Recall and your legal rights here.

Which vehicles have been recalled by automakers?

Here is the current list of recalled cars with faulty airbags made by Takata:

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

Contact Lieff Cabraser

If you or a family member has been injured in an accident linked to a faulty airbag, we invite you to contact a personal injury attorney at Lieff Cabraser for a free, no-obligation review of your case. Or call us toll-free at 1-800-541-7358 and ask to speak with auto accident attorney Fabrice Vincent.