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The Takata airbag debacle: What caused the defects and who is responsible?

Numerous major auto companies have already recalled tens of thousands of vehicles due to the defective airbag inflators supplied by Takata Corp.

The rupturing of airbags due to a faulty chemical propellant supplied by Takata has already claimed at least 10 lives. There is justifiable fear that this could continue to happen, spraying metal shards that injure and kill defenseless people inside their vehicles.

The recalls this threat has required are shaping up to be the largest in the history of the auto industry.

How could things have gone so wrong? In this post, we will explore that question.

Cost estimates for recalls

This week, Takata Corp. tried to put a dollar figure on the cost of recalling all of the faulty airbag inflators. Takata estimated it could cost up to $24 billion to do this fully. That is $7 billion more than a different estimate made only about a month ago.

Takata and its auto industry customers haven't come to an agreement on much each should pay for the recall. Share prices for the companies involved have already taken significant hits.

It's a global issue. But most of the deaths caused by the explosion of the Takata airbag inflators have been in the U.S.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the issue. There up to 120 million Takata-made inflators that are installed in U.S. vehicles. NHTSA is trying to determine how many of these need to be recalled.

Takata and Honda: the back story

What did Takata know about the defective airbag inflators and when did its customers become aware of the problem?

Last week, there were media reports on the relationship between Takata and its biggest customer, Honda. The report was that as far back as 2009, Honda had asked Takata to change the design of the airbags. Honda may have done this it had gained some level of knowledge of the potentially serious airbag problems.

And yet Honda did not inform NHTSA or any other federal safety agencies in the U.S. of its concerns about the airbag inflators. It was until five years later, after numerous deaths, that the recalls began.

Honda denies that its request for a redesign of the airbags was connected to the fatal defects that later occurred. But proper corporate compliance practice would probably have been to inform NHTSA of the potential safety issue.

Wrongful death actions

Of course, there are many other situations that arise on the road that can wrongly claim a life. Drunk drivers, distracted drivers and others need to be held accountable when this happens. If you are in that situation, it makes sense to talk with an attorney who can explain your options for a possible wrongful death action.

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