The really surprising thing about the BMW recall announced this week is not the fact that some older models in the German carmaker’s line had what USA Today describes as “potentially shrapnel-producing airbags.” Rather, it is that the recall has taken this long to be initiated granted everything else we know about the airbags in question. According to the newspaper, in the recalled vehicles “the passenger airbag could explode too forcefully and send metal or plastic shrapnel flying at the passenger.”
As the newspaper reported on Tuesday, BMW has recalled its 2002 and 2003 3-Series cars because of the airbag issue. The recall order is thought to effect about 42,000 vehicles here in the United States and 220,000 worldwide. According to USA Today the air bags and related assemblies for these vehicles “were supplied by Takata, which also supplied potentially shrapnel-producing passenger bags that forced Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and General Motors to recall some 3.4 million vehicles worldwide last month.” This raises a basic question: if five other automakers using the same company’s products recalled them for this issue why did BMW – or any other manufacturer who may have used the air bags in question – wait at all to participate in the recall?
Even more troublingly, as the newspaper makes clear, this critical unsafe products issue has been on the auto industry’s radar screen for quite some time. According to USA Today, Takata air bags “were blamed for two deaths in Hondas in 2009.” Moreover, the paper reports: “Takata has had problems going back to the 1990s. It supplied faulty safety belts that triggered a recall of more than 9 million vehicles in the U.S. in 1995, a near-record at the time.”
For a Portland unsafe products attorney, however, the details of the recall as it was announced this week raise some even more basic questions. Why, for example, has it taken more than a decade for both Takata (which issued statement approving of the recall) and BMW to recognize and acknowledge such a critical safety issue? Granted the reported problems with Takata’s safety record going back to the 90s, why was BMW (a company whose public image is built, in part, on safety and reliability) doing business with them in the first place? Why, for that matter, were so many other automakers? These are crucial questions that will need to be explored further in the weeks and months to come.