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Earlier this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that Japanese automobile safety feature manufacturer Takata is issuing yet another recall for 2.7 million of its airbag inflators. Takata’s airbag inflators are unique in that they use ammonium nitrate, a volatile compound that can suddenly explode when subjected to moisture or high temperatures. The results can be fatal. At least 17 deaths and almost 200 injuries have been traced back to Takata’s airbags.
As a result of the ongoing safety issues with airbags – or what the NTHSA has dubbed the largest and most complex auto recall in history – Takata filed for Bankruptcy in June 2017. Key Safety Systems, a U.S. subsidiary of China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corporation, has agreed to buy the company. While Takata will continue to produce steering wheels and seat belts, they will no longer manufacture airbags by 2020.
If you have been injured by a Takata airbag or another defective automobile part, contact our experienced Alabama product liability lawyers at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. at (205) 933-1500 to find out how we can help you.
Millions of vehicles on American roads contain dangerous Takata airbags. When the risk of explosion due to moisture accumulation became apparent, the Takata issued recalls on its airbag inflators, replacing them with inflators containing drying agents. Out of 100 million of these replacement inflators, most use the desiccant zeolite. The 2.7 million recalled inflators use another drying agent called calcium sulfide.
According to Takata spokesperson Toyohiro Hishikawa: “We still have to prove the safety of our desiccated inflators, but we believe those using zeolite are safer than those using calcium sulfate.” In other words, all 100 million of Takata’s inflators are potentially dangerous.
Around 20 automakers were affected by the initial airbag inflator recall, mostly on vehicles produced between 2002 and 2015. Some manufacturers that have been involved in the recall include Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen Group, General Motors, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, and Honda. These manufacturers may be held liable for injuries and fatalities occurring because of faulty airbag replacements.
According to an order from the NHTSA, Takata has until the end of 2019 to demonstrate the safety of the replacement airbag inflators equipped with drying agents. As of yet, no deaths or injuries have been linked to the replacement inflators, but moisture or heat-related explosions usually take up to five years to occur. The main problem for Takata is that experts such as the Japan Explosives Society have concluded that the use of drying agents can only push back the development of dangerous conditions in inflators, and cannot eliminate the risk entirely.
Auto industry consultant Upham projects that the 100 million replacement inflators will themselves need to be recalled because ammonium nitrate remains too volatile, even with the use of drying agents. One former Takata employee is on record stating that by adding a desiccant to the inflators, “you’re just lengthening the fuse, not correcting the problems.”
When you get injured as a result of a design flaw in a vehicle you have purchased, you are entitled to compensation. At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., we have built our reputation on our ability to get our clients the compensation they need to recover from their injuries, even in the face of stiff resistance from corporate opponents. If you or a loved one has been injured in auto accident, we can help. Call us today at (205) 933-1500 today for a free case consultation.