TK Holdings Inc., which does business as Takata, is a manufacturer of motor vehicle seatbelts, air bags, steering wheels, and child restraint systems. On April 11, 2013, Takata issued a Defect Information Report (“DIR”) to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concerning specific air bag inflaters installed in vehicles produced by several vehicle manufacturers.
The DIR was issued after Takata learned of an air bag deployment issue in Japan in October, 2011, and then a second issue in Puerto Rico the following month. Concerns over Takata air bags have been an issue since 2008, however some people speculate that Takata, and possibly Honda, knew about the problem as early as 2004. Allegedly, in 2004, a vehicle crash in Alabama involving a 2002 Honda Accord sent metal fragments through the bag and into the vehicle’s cabin, injuring the driver.
The danger stems from a problem with a propellant, which can degrade and become combust able in warm, moist weather, causing metal fragments to explode throughout the vehicle’s cabin. This essentially results in flying metal shrapnel, which has caused serious injury and even death.
In a 2013 article from Car Complaints, according to Takata, “the propellant wafers produced at a plant in Moses Lake, Washington, between April 13, 2000 and September 11, 2002, may have been produced with an inadequate compaction force. The propellant could deteriorate over time and cause too much combustion, which could cause the body of the inflator to rupture during air bag deployment.”
Takata also placed blame on a plant in Monclova, Mexico. Propellant wafers used in inflators at that location between October 4 , 2001 and October 31, 2002, may have been exposed to uncontrolled moisture. Those wafers could have absorbed moisture beyond their limits and cause too much expansion in the metal canister.
Honda first recalled vehicles in 2008, which included 4,000 Accords and Civics (2001 models).
According to Reuters, in 2009, Oklahoma teen Ashley Parham died when the air bag in her 2001 Honda Accord exploded, shooting metal fragments into her neck. Honda and Takata denied any fault and settled for an undisclosed sum.
After the first small 2008 recall, Honda continued to issue recalls – one in 2009, one in 2010, and one in 2011, which was expanded globally the same year. The recalls continue, with the most recent recalls occurring in November, 2014. The total recalls Honda has issued for Takata-related issues is over 10 million. Below is a short list of potentially affected vehicles:
Honda: 5,051,364 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord
2001 – 2002 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
It is important to note that the recalls are no longer limited to certain areas with high humidity. As recently as November 20, 2014, there was a Senate Committee Hearing in which the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration acknowledged that the danger presented by Takata airbags is not limited to any one part of the country. If you own a Honda that was manufactured in the last 20 years, there is a good chance it has been recalled. You can call Honda and give your VIN number to confirm, or you can visit http://www.nhtsa.gov/Vehicle+Safety/Recalls+&+Defects and type in your VIN number. Dealers will inspect your vehicle and air bags, and if it is determined that your air bags need to be replaced, replacement should be free.
If you drive a Honda and suspect you were injured as a result of a defective air bag, you should contact an attorney to determine your rights.
http://www.takata.com/en/about/company.html; http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/acms/cs/jaxrs/download/doc/UCM436445/RCDNN-13E017-5589.pdf; http://blog.caranddriver.com/honda-taking-heat-for-hiding-deaths-injuries-from-exploding-airbag-recalls/; http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/19/business/regulators-call-for-takata-airbag-recall-to-be-extended-nationwide.html?_r=0; http://www.carcomplaints.com/news/2013/takata-recall-explosive-air-bags.shtml