By on August 25, 2020

Honda Motor Co. has agreed to pay $84.2 million to settle an investigation conducted by American states regarding its use of the famously defective Takata airbags — units linked to numerous deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Honda recalled about 12.9 million vehicles (some of them Acura models) equipped with inflation devices that ran the risk of accumulating moisture to the point where the propellant inside could destabilize, leading to an overly forceful explosion during an impact. Upon rupturing, these units could effectively spray shrapnel into the cabin area.

While Honda’s first major recalls were enacted in 2008, by 2013 millions of vehicles were in the process of being retracted by rival manufacturers that also used Takata as a supplier. And it just kept getting bigger until it was the largest recall in history, with Honda receiving the most ire due to the high number of fatalities suffered within its vehicles — and for having prior knowledge of the defects.

The company previously found itself in trouble for not-so-promptly notifying regulators of a Takata seat belt defect from several years earlier, further marring its image during the airbag fiasco. States are now claiming that Honda violated consumer protection laws and was intentionally deceptive by failing to make consumers aware of potentially deadly defects.

With Takata now bankrupt and rolled into Chinese-owned (but Michigan-based) Key Safety Systems, Honda has taken the brunt of the remaining abuse related to the airbag scandal. Yet it was hardly the only automaker involved; practically every name in the industry had at least a few steering wheel-mounted IEDs within their ranks. Honda just had the least plausible-sounding excuses, more direct involvement with the supplier, and a bit more blood on its hands than its rivals. Similar suits were issued against other manufacturers.

According to Reuters, American Honda Motor Co and Honda of America agreed to upgrade their product safety procedures related to frontal airbags to help reduce the risk of future tragedies. This includes the addition of fail-safe features to stop unintentional detonations, improved record keeping, better vetting of suppliers, and applying changes to quality control and risk management teams  among other changes.

From Reuters:

The Honda affiliates agreed to the consent order without admitting wrongdoing and to avoid the cost of further litigation. Court approval is required.

Honda confirmed it had reached civil settlements with 46 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and three U.S. territories over the matter. It also said it has replaced more than 16 million defective Takata airbag inflators in its vehicles.

A multistate group of attorneys general had been investigating Honda’s use of Takata airbags since December 2015, according to the consent order.

Honda’s big payout results in each state getting a little less than $2 million apiece. That’s chump change compared to how much the recalls set back the affected automakers. GM estimated that it would need a minimum of $320 million to replace inflators in 2.5 million vehicles in 2017. Meanwhile, Toyota said it had $5.12 billion in receivables against Takata to cover the recall of some 27 million units worldwide. Honda’s recall was nearly twice that size. In 2016, Honda calculated that its selling, general, and administrative expenses increased by roughly $1.92 billion (year over year) as a direct result of recall-related expenses. Another $5 billion was set aside the following year.

Attorney General of Virginia Mark Herring said the settlement still represented a win for regulators, however.

“Virginians have a right to be protected from defective products and they deserve to know when they are driving a car with extremely dangerous airbags that could potentially hurt them,” He said on Tuesday. “This settlement sends a strong message to businesses that failure to disclose dangerous product defects will not be tolerated. My team and I remain committed to holding auto manufacturers accountable if they put unsafe vehicles on Virginia’s roads.”

[Image: Anastasiia Moiseieva/Shutterstock]

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5 Comments on “Honda on Hook for $84.2 Million to Settle State-level Airbag Probe...”

  • avatar

    A very nice service technician came to my house and replaced the front driver and passenger airbags in my 2003 CRV….. after I ignored warning letters in my mailbox for two or three years pleasung with me to take my car to he dealer for service. If they didn’t see a dealer visit as an opportunity to put your car on a rack and try to sell you a dozen different services I would have taken it in sooner.

  • avatar

    The not so funny thing about it is that the new airbags are good for about 5-6 years if you live in a hot and humid climate. So, I had my 2006 Pilot’s changed in 2014 which means I am due again. At that time, someone in the know informed me that the replacements are the same airbags but fresh powder. Things that make you go hmm…Honda was counting and people not keeping their cars for too long. But is is a Honda…

  • avatar

    Honda’s Takata bloodshed continues…

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