RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Defective airbags are going to cost Honda $85 million following a settlement in a long-running dispute over their safety.
The settlement was reached between the company and 48 attorneys general. It concluded a multi-state investigation into Honda’s alleged failure to inform regulators and consumers that the frontal airbags posed a significant risk of rupture, which could cause metal fragments to fly into the vehicles’ passenger compartments.
The airbags were supplied to Honda by Takata. They were first installed in Honda vehicles beginning with the 2001 model year.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said an investigation showed Honda engineers suspected early on that the ammonium nitrate propellant in the airbags could burn aggressively and cause the airbag inflators to burst, sending deadly shrapnel into the person they were intended to protect.
“They knew there was a problem but failed to adequately disclose it to customers,” Stein said.
According to the settlement, more than 14 people were killed and over 200 were injured nationwide by those defective airbags in Honda vehicles.
“Any company that knows there is a problem with an airbag has an incredible obligation to get that information out there,” Stein said.
The settlement alleged that Honda delayed telling people about the problem and didn’t start recalls until 2008. Since that time, the company has recalled nearly 13 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the faulty inflators.
Nearly $2.5 million of the $85 million settlement will go to North Carolina drivers.
“The paramount factor in any car purchase is safety,” Stein said. “Anyone driving a car needs to know if they get into a crash, they have the best chance to survive.”
The settlement also wanted to make sure future Honda owners will be kept safe. So, as part of the settlement, Honda will:
- Ensure future airbag designs include fail-safe features to protect passengers if the inflator ruptures
- Improve record keeping and parts tracking
- Require Honda to approve all new frontal airbag designs before the company will consider them for use in new vehicles
- Implement mandatory whistle-blower protection
Anyone who thinks their vehicle may be affected can check the settlement or call the Honda Customer Service Center at 1-888-234-2138. All safety repairs are free at authorized Honda dealers.
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