A congressional House Commerce and Energy subcommittee held a hearing on defective airbags produced by the Japanese company, Takata Corporation, whose airbags have been known to explode and fire out shards of metal when they inflate. This has been the biggest auto recall in U.S. history. So far, nearly 34 million air bags have been recalled, which has not been enough to prevent countless injuries and at least 6 deaths.
Kevin Kennedy, the executive vice president of North America Takata expressed deep regret and said they were doing everything in their power to address the safety concerns raised by airbag ruptures. Kennedy noted that Takata had upped production of replacement airbags and expected to produce 1 million per month by September. However, Kennedy admitted to still using ammonium nitrate even though the company has acknowledged that it may be a factor in the defective airbags. Furthermore, the logistics of replacing the defective equipment has yet to be worked out. In order to figure out a strategy, Takata will be working with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Even with production increases, the confusion and fear amongst consumers is palpable. One in seven registered vehicles in the U.S. has been effected by the recall. Automakers are left trying to figure out which cars are affected by the expanded recall, and for some consumers who know they have defective parts, supply has not caught up with demand.
As for penalties Takata might face, the NHTSA is currently focusing on ensuring the safety of drivers still with defective airbags, but didn’t rule out civil penalties as the investigation continues. If civil penalties are pursued, Takata would be liable under a products liability theory for placing a defective product into the hands of its consumers.
Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger is currently reviewing and accepting cases of people injured by these defective airbags on a nationwide basis.