New allegations point to automakers keeping silent in the face of known dangers to maximize profits
As alleged in new documents filed in the Takata airbag rupture dangers lawsuit, at least four automakers “knew for years that Takata’s airbags were dangerous and could rupture violently but continued to use those airbags in their vehicles to save on costs, lawyers representing victims of the defect asserted in a court document filed on Monday.” The New York Times reports that while previous investigations had viewed the automakers as victims taken in by a “rogue supplier” that had falsified safety data to conceal the deadly defects, new information brought to court by plaintiff attorneys in the case indicate a much deeper involvement on the part of the major automakers who used the defective airbags in their vehicles for years.
Automaker Honda was quick to deny the new allegations; Ford, Nissan, and Toyota reportedly avoided commenting or indicated their responses would follow via legal pleadings. An earlier report by the New York Times in 2016 noted that instead of having been victims of Takata’s practices, the automakers had put significant pressure on their suppliers to minimize costs ahead of all other priorities and disregarding possible safety issues. That report focused on GM, which has yet to be specifically named in the more recent filings, but the recent court filings by plaintiff attorneys emphasize that minimizing all potential costs was the paramount concern.
The Takata airbag defect has prompted the largest automotive recall in history in the U.S., affecting approximately 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles. As further noted by the Times, the new allegations came in response “to a court document filed by the automakers last week that pointed to Takata’s plea deal to argue that the supplier alone was culpable.”
The Times had also earlier reported that Takata and Honda learned as early as 2004 of an Alabama airbag explosion in a Honda Accord where metal fragments exploded outwards, injuring the car’s driver. But the companies painted the incident as an anomaly and issued no recalls, nor did they involve any government safety regulators.