The Takata airbag defect – a new automobile products liability issue has drawn the nation’s attention as multiple deaths and severe injuries have been linked to exploding airbags.
The airbag manufacturers, Honda and Takata, may have known about this problem for a decade but failed to do what was necessary to protect consumers by correcting the defect.
Takata airbag systems, like other systems, contain metal inflators located behind the airbag cushions which emit gas during a collision causing the cushion to fill up and deploy. In order to generate gas, the vehicles’ electronic control unit sends a signal that ignites propellant that it stored within the inflator.
The metal inflator remains intact normally in properly functioning airbags. In certain defective Takata airbag systems, the inflator itself may rupture upon deployment and eject sharp metal objects that cause serious harm to the car’s occupants. Think of it as metal shrapnel.
As of 2015, exploding Takata airbags have been linked to dozens of injuries and as many as five deaths.
The total number of recalled vehicles, according to NHTSA, is approximately 7.8 million. Car manufacturers; such as Honda, Mazda, Toyota and BMW began issuing their first recalls in 2013.
On November 6, 2014, the New York Times published an article which gave credence to the thought that this defect had been swept under the rug by Takata executives.
In addition to the defective airbag, Takata changed from using tetrazole to ammonium nitrate in their airbags as a cost-saving measure. Ammonium nitrate is a compound that “tended to disintegrate on storage under widely varying temperature conditions and could produce irregular ballistics consequence.”
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