On the eve of a US Senate hearing focused on the Takata airbag recall, Senate Democrats have issued “a 45-page report into the nation’s largest-ever recall of about 34 million vehicles by 11 automakers for air bags that can explode and send shrapnel flying,” according to the Detroit News. The paper notes that it was only last Friday that the airbag manufacturer acknowledged an eighth documented death linked to its defective safety equipment.
According to the newspaper, the Senate report found that more than a decade after engineers first became aware of the problem “no one can identify a root cause for the ruptures.” The defect in the Takata airbags causes the gas canisters used to inflate the bags to explode, sending potentially lethal shrapnel flying into the faces and bodies of people riding in the car.
As company executives prepare to face Congress another fact reported by the Detroit News is even more shocking. According to the Senate document, even the replacement parts Takata is providing to millions of families here in Oregon and around the country are not necessarily safe. “Takata is currently producing hundreds of thousands of replacement inflators each month that may or may not completely eliminate the risk of air bag rupture,” the report says. The idea that the company is replacing defective and potentially fatal air bag inflators with parts that may themselves also be defective is difficult to comprehend.
What little good news there is to this story can be found in another recent announcement: that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database of VIN numbers of recalled vehicles (see below for link) now includes information linked to the Takata recalls, though even there the NHTSA site, safecar.gov, warns visitors to check back regularly if they fear they may be impacted by the Takata recall. It notes that information on the vast number of cars effected is still being updated and fed into the system, so that even now the database cannot be considered complete.
As a Portland car accident and defective products attorney I can honestly say that a recall on the scale Takata and its automaker partners face is truly unprecedented. The fact that the company had been aware of potentially fatal issues with its airbag systems but chose to do nothing for years speaks to the worst aspects of corporate America’s bottom-line culture. We are lucky to live in a society where ordinary people can use the courts to obtain justice in cases like this.
Detroit News: Takata: report on delayed airbag recalls not accurate
Safecar.gov: Look up recalls by VIN