I have written on many occasions about the scandal surrounding the millions of defective airbags manufactured by the Takata Corporation. These “have been linked to at least 13 deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries,” according to The New York Times. The recall of some 60 million vehicles equipped with this faulty safety equipment is an ongoing scandal of truly global proportions.
An editorial published earlier this month in The Times, however, is a jarring reminder of what happens when the public’s attention wanders and pressure for change wanes. According to the newspaper “just 8.4 million affected cars had been repaired as of May 20… Last year, the secretary of transportation, Anthony Foxx, said an estimated 20 percent of recalled cars are never repaired, and perhaps more.”
That would be bad enough. But, shockingly: “even now, four automakers – Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi – are selling new cars that contain the faulty airbags, according to a new report by Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee. And Fiat Chrysler and Toyota have refused to disclose which of their models contain the devices,” according to The Times. As an Oregon dangerous products attorney I find this stunning.
The car companies argue that the Takata airbags rarely fail until they have been in use for several years. Using this logic they apparently believe it is OK to sell you a new car with defective, potentially deadly, parts today because they plan to issue a recall notice for it around 2018. What this really comes down to, however, is another instance of profits being placed ahead of people’s safety. According to the newspaper, Takata, which remains one of the world’s largest airbag manufacturers, is having trouble keeping up with demand both for new airbags and for the replacements it needs to supply for recalled vehicles. One might have thought that carmakers would recognize a duty to fix this potentially deadly issue even if that meant slowing down production temporarily and absorbing the accompanying loss of profits. Apparently not. To add insult to injury, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has, according to The Times, approved this arrangement.
As an Oregon product liability lawyer with a focus on victim’s rights I am shocked to learn of all this. The Times reports that Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is urging the NHTSA to “ban the sale of new cars with defective airbags.” At the very least the agency could require full disclosure on the part of car companies. A Congress with consumers’ real interests at heart would put pressure on the Agency to ensure that happens. It is sad to think that years after this issue was first exposed, one way or another it always seems to get worse.
The New York Times: Why are cars with killer airbags still being sold?