By on October 31, 2014

takata sign holder

Investigators unearth more reports of deaths and injuries linked to catastrophic detonations of Takata’s airbags; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets a deadline for the supplier to submit related documents; and attorneys urge a U.S. district judge to act quickly on a class action against Takata and four of its client automakers.

Automotive News reports a number of cases linked to Takata airbags are coming to the surface as investigators begin their probes into the supplier. A common thread through the cases — such as an incident in Atlanta that left a woman with a speech disorder, as well as caused a number of strokes and one seizure, as a result of a piece of shrapnel from the unit slicing through her carotid artery — is settlement. Most of the cases are being settled out-of-court, just before prosecutors can gather the evidence needed to go after Takata, and just before such cases enter the public eye.

Over in the Beltway, Reuters says the NHTSA has set a deadline of December 1 for Takata to submit documents and answers to questions under oath as part of the agency’s probe into the defects. The order also cites an October 17 report by the news organization about manufacturing issues at the supplier’s Mexico facility, particularly a reference to an email written in March of 2011 that proclaimed “a part that is not welded = one life less,” as well as the discovery of chewing gum in a unit. The agency also wants a list of every death and injury caused by the airbags.

Finally, attorneys representing their clients in a class action suit against the supplier have asked Miami-based U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King to move their case quickly forward. One of the attorneys, Peter Prieto, stated the urging was necessary due to the danger the airbags create among the public. Eighteen plaintiffs in 10 states are involved in the suit, which also names Toyota, Ford, BMW and Honda as defendants. The next hearing will be on December 8.

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32 Comments on “Spotlight Shines Brighter On Takata Airbag Failures...”


  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Based on everything that I’ve recently read, this is going to be the sleeper auto news story of 2014, lasting well into 2015, as we’ve only begun to see the literal tip of the mammoth iceberg that this crisis represents.

    We are talking about dozens of millions of vehicles globally that have defective and degrading/becoming more dangerous-with-time-component airbags installed out there, most likely only hearing/reading about a statistical fraction of then injuries that have occurred due to said defect thus far.

    It’s such a mess that neither manufacturers nor dealers don’t know what to do and are implementing policies all over the spectrum, scattershot, with no consistency whatsoever (sell, stop-sales, deactivate airbags, advise customers to not have front passengers, etc.).

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      Remember back in the, what, early ’90s there was a series of American TV ads to push acceptance of airbags? I think they were sponsored by some consortium of insurance companies.

      A row of nice, middle-class adults stood holding folded airbags (presumably without the heavy canister) and in the gentlest soft-lit intimacy the camera moved to each in turn who quietly intoned “I’m alive”.

      Then followed some voice over delivering the “airbags will save your ass” message. Very impacting, artfully done pitch.

      But not once, and I deliberately listened for it numerous times, not once did any of those people or the voice over add the little datum of “… because my car had an air bag”.

      Not once was any claim made in those ads that any one of those nice people actually had a bad wreck and only their airbag saved them. All they said was, indisputably, “I’m alive”.

      Is that not masterly fraud?

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “Most of the cases are being settled out-of-court, just before prosecutors can gather the evidence needed to go after Takata, and just before such cases enter the public eye.”

    This is the greatest impediment to effecting timely actions to make products safer. Restricting the ability of mfrs to include non-disclosure clauses in settlements would go much further in preventing product defects from continuing to hurt users than would Nader’s desire to criminally charge mfrs.

    • 0 avatar
      jjster6

      Since when are there prosecutors in civil cases? This article seems to have the facts wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        Settling the civil suit with a non-disclosure clause effectively hides the evidence of malfeasance by the mfr, making it much harder for an interested prosecutor to gather enough evidence to pursue a criminal case.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          How is the settlement a hindrance? The NDA isn’t binding on a prosecutor and probably no protection against a subpoena, which could be served on Takata anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            ClutchCarGo

            The NDA may not be binding on a prosecutor, but third parties like consumer groups and journalists often act as instigators for prosecution by aggregating info. Prosecutors have limited resources that are usually directed towards more obvious crimes, and NDAs prevent third parties from gathering enough info to interest a prosecutor.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    On one hand, airbags have saved countless lives and reduced injury severity over the years.

    On the other hand, I’m surprised it took until 2014 for a major recall like this to occur. Part of the airbag function is inherently dangerous and any number of slight miscues in the manufacturing process could render the airbag unsafe.

    There are really only a handful of airbag manufacturers in the world, with Takata being one of the largest if not THE largest one. I’ll bet every other manufacturer is really taking this opportunity to tighten up their own processes.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    So in Japanese – the complex characters are used in more formal or complex settings, and the (Kanji?) simple more “modern” characters denote informality or a commercial message?

    What does the board say?

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      Board just says that the regularly scheduled stockholder meeting of the Takata corporation is in the east garden gallery. It may be from any earlier date and have nothing to do with this current falderal.

      Japanese uses three sets of characters:

      Kanji: taken from Chinese “hanzi” characters, morphed by the Japanese over centuries but still pretty congruent, sometimes simpler than traditional hanzi.

      Hiragana: none are on that sign but they’re the original pre-kanji native script of Japanese, simple and curvy, represent phonetic syllables in the spoken language. A fall-back for those without much kanji and for explaining unfamiliar characters via a tiny superscript (furigana) in many publications.

      Katakana: used for “loan words” from non-Japanese languages, advertising emphasis and for other cultural reason that are beyond my knowledge. They’re the simple, bold, angular ones like the first three chracters in that sign (Ta Ka Ta).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Excellent – you know Japanese?!

        I have also heard that katakana is used to write names when you’re intending disrespect/disregard.

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          Could well be, I just have a simple reading knowledge and that’s way beyond my cultural awareness. Given how xenophobic Japanese culture is, I could easily see that, as in tarring something with the brush of “foreignness” by using the script developed for foreign words.

          Japanese people I’ve known in the States have told some pretty gruesome stories of how they and their kids were treated on their returns to Japan. Long-term exposure to gaijin results in “damaged goods”, don’tcha know.

          • 0 avatar
            ccode81

            My long reply eaten, but I disagree it is result of foreign allergy that we don’t use kanji on foreign origin thing.
            Kanji is an ideograms giving additional image to original object.
            Meiji era people tried wrong, and as result America is now called rice country in Japan. That should be ourselves!

            anyway thanks for posting explanations on 3 characters.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            ccode81,

            I always wondered about the 米国 thing. I would think America would be better known for corn or wheat.

            I hope your longer reply appears later. I always appreciate your comments.

      • 0 avatar
        Stephen7

        Hey Pete, just saw your post after I replied. The kanji in the last row isn’t 東 “east” but 泉 (izumi) “spring, fountain”. Otherwise good job! 頑張って!

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          SO desu ka! Old eyes :-)

          Thanks for the complement. This has spurred me to get off my keester and try to recoup my reading skills.

          J>E I used to be reasonably competent with, E>J… eh, chotto…

          • 0 avatar
            ccode81

            Hi Pete,
            When yankees arrived on blackship, the samurais couldn’t hear well for first A on America, miss understanding it’s Merika.
            We still have “Meriken park” in Kobe port…
            They’ve simply gave whatever kanji sounds so to describe, and it became 米利加.
            Taking the first letter for shortening, the American nation is 米国. Last letter obviously means country.
            in same manner, France is 仏蘭西, nation is 仏国 voila, they are now Buddist!

            I like your comments as well

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            ccode81,

            Fascinating and ironic… now we Americans use “Merica” or “Murica” to allude to our countrymen who display simple-minded, ignorant chauvinism .

            We have the saying: What goes around comes around.

            I’m sure there is a kimari monku for that :-)

            Cheers

          • 0 avatar
            ccode81

            Hi pete,

            Sorry I don’t have reply button appearing to directly comment to your last post, but best I recommend on that proverbs’ Japanese version is 因果応報 “inga-ouhou”. It is Buddhism karma concept, good thing, bad thing all comes back to you sort of meaning, mostly used in negative way these days. But no one really making sacrasm on 米国 thing, please relax.

            Well , for last half century or so we are not giving kanji to foreign origin object, not good to change some other countries main diet or religion. ..And as information transaction is so fast and heavy volume these days, we can’t wait months for some official to decide what kanji to allocate to something first hear.

            cheers!

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            ccode,

            No sarcasm taken! *I* was being sarcastic about dumb Americans.

            大丈夫です!

  • avatar

    Japanese companies don’t make mistakes. This story is false.

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    The sign says
    This way to the Court Room

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Let’s see, what’s going to happen here:

    A.) This company will pay a huge fine.
    B.) A couple of Japanese engineers will take a beating by top management, followed by intense shame on those responsible and their families.
    C.) Then business will carry on as usual in time

    The end.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      This has potential to get a lot worse depending on how many vehicles and injuries are ultimately involved.

      This is how I see it happening:

      1: Congress holds hearings. Would be presidential candidates and party climbers use it as an opportunity to do some grandstanding.

      2: The information uncovered by federal investigation results in claims for a decade. The OEM’s are brought in as codefendants.

      3: Congress brings in CEO’s of OEM’s to grill them on what they knew and why they didn’t notify federal regulators.

      4: Takata devotes an entire floor at its world headquarters to hourly Seppuku for executives.

      5: Takata files bankruptcy from all of the litigation, product replacement costs, indemnification costs from OEM’s, etc.

      Joking aside, the replacement cost for all of the potentially defective airbags must be enormous for over 10 million vehicles considering that an airbag is a rather pricey single part on a vehicle.

  • avatar
    segfault

    If memory serves, Takata was also the manufacturer of the defective Honda seatbelt buckles which were recalled in the early/mid 1990s. The buckles did not hold up well in direct sunlight.

  • avatar
    Stephen7

    The sign reads:

    Takata Corporation
    regularly scheduled stockholder general meeting
    Meeting place
    <——-
    Spring Garden Gallery

    Kanji isn't necessarily more formal, but in this case the whole sign is nouns so no kana needed.

  • avatar
    dr_outback

    I am so happy I was able to get my sisters 2003 Vibe passenger airbag replaced quickly. Either owners are unaware of the recall, are not acting promptly or there are enough airbags in stock for the Vibe/Matrix. I hope other owners are as fortunate.

    • 0 avatar
      fendertweed

      The problem is that the way the recall has been so irresponsibly scoped (up til now, we’ll see what Congressional interest might do), only certain defective vehicles are part of the recall. Virginia is not included in the recall (though it’s hot & humid as he!! here, too, in summer, so purporting to limit it to Southern areas for that reason is a bunch of crap).

      Run our VIN on the NHTSA site and it shows no outstanding recalls, so our dealer isn’t going to replace the defective airbags in wife’s ’05 Matrix XRS.

      As a result I’ve lost confidence in Toyota to resolve this appropriately and the Matrix will be gone in 2 days as a trade-in (NOT on another Toyota). BMW is recalling all affected vehicles IIRC. Toyota’s approach, in contrast, is woefully deficient and we’re not going to wait around to see if they get it together and expand the scope months from now.

      The new car may also have some technical time bomb to be discovered but we luckily have the means to swap and I don’t see the need to drive a potentially deadly defective car because Toyota and NHTSA can’t get their dysfunctional acts together.

  • avatar
    dwight

    i’d rather install a roll-cage and wear a helmet than to have the fear of an exploding air bag and the possible side effects. works for rally drivers

  • avatar
    Stephen7

    Pete and Corey, before kana (and in Chinese) certain characters were used for their pronunciation rather than meaning. The character for rice was pronounced mei and used for the ME sound in America. It’s the same reason that England can be called “eikoku” the ei character is prounced ying in Chinese to represent the first syllable of England.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      Oh, good, because those two languages aren’t complex enough :-)

      But that’s an entire new dimension I’m unaware of. I thought that in Japanese (Chinese, I’m entirely ignorant) kana preceded everything.

      This seems to imply that Japanese were themselves preliterate when they first adopted hanzi from the Chinese. That’s going waaaay back, ne?

      Very interesting, thanks.


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