Takata, automakers face further airbag injury suits

Feb 27, 2017

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against air bag manufacturer Takata, as well as five other automakers. The plaintiffs claim the companies knew that Takata's products were dangerous, but continued using them to cut costs.

Takata’s air bag inflators are responsible for 16 deaths worldwide and more than 180 injuries. Under the force of a car crash, the inflators can explode and project shrapnel into passengers.

The inflators are responsible for the biggest automotive recall in U.S. history, involving 42 million vehicles and nearly 69 million inflators.

Documents produced in the case say that the automakers had knowledge that Takata's air bag inflators were unsafe, but put them in millions of vehicles anyway.

Automakers have responded by citing Takata's plea agreement, in which the Justice Department says Takata convinced the car companies to continuing using its inflators "through submission of false and fraudulent reports and other information that concealed the true and accurate test results."

Specific allegations include:

  • Toyota’s quality concerns regarding Takata in 2003, when an inflator exploded in a testing facility. At least 15 inflators in Toyotas ruptured by 2014, Toyota then issued a recall.

  • Nissan switching to Takata inflators to save roughly $4 per unit. Another automaker warned Nissan about the inflators in 2006, eight years before Nissan issued a recall.

  • BMW went to Takata for cost savings, but as early as 2003 a Takata inflator blew up in Switzerland.