COLUMBUS – American Honda Motor Co., Inc., and Honda of America Mfg., Inc., agreed to a settlement worth more than $85 million over allegations the automaker concealed safety issues related to defective airbag systems in Honda and Acura vehicles.
The civil settlement, reached between Honda and the attorneys general of 48 states, territories and the District of Columbia, concludes an investigation into Honda’s 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 passenger compartments of vehicles, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. The ruptures resulted in at least 14 deaths and 200 injuries in the United States.
“I’d never buy a car if I knew systems meant to save me and my family could actually hurt us,” Yost said. “That is what Honda denied Ohio consumers – the chance to make the best decisions for their families. This agreement will ensure that doesn’t happen again.”
The systems were designed and manufactured by Takata Corp., a longtime Honda supplier, and were first installed in vehicles sold in the United States in the 2001 model year.
“The now-bankrupt airbag inflator supplier, Takata, pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal criminal fraud charges for deceiving Honda and other automakers about the safety of its airbags,” Honda said in a statement. “Under the terms of these civil settlements, Honda does not acknowledge any wrongdoing.
“Honda continues to lead the industry in its efforts to replace defective Takata airbag inflators. The company has thus far replaced more than 16 million defective Takata airbag inflators in its vehicles and made more than 292 million individual attempts to contact owners and urge them to have their recalled Takata airbag inflators replaced.”
The attorneys general said Honda engineers suspected the airbags’ propellant, ammonium nitrate, could burn aggressively and cause the inflator to burst. Despite these concerns, Honda delayed warning consumers and safety officials, even as it began partial recalls in 2008 and 2009, Yost said.
Further, Honda continued to represent to consumers that its vehicles, including its airbags, were safe, Yost said. Since 2008, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the suspect inflators.
The states alleged that Honda’s actions, or its failures to act, as well as its misrepresentations about the safety of its vehicles were unfair and deceptive and that Honda’s conduct violated state consumer protection laws, including Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, Yost said.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, Honda has agreed to injunctive relief which, among other things, requires it to:
Take steps to ensure that future airbag designs include “fail-safe” features to protect passengers in the event the inflator ruptures.
Adopt changes to its procurement process for frontal airbags, ensure that its suppliers have the appropriate industry certifications and satisfy key industry performance standards, as well as improve record-keeping and parts tracking.
Implement recurrence prevention procedures designed to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, such as requiring that Honda approve all new frontal airbag designs before the company will consider them for use in new vehicles.
Abide by prohibitions on misleading advertisements and point of sale representations regarding the safety of Honda’s vehicles, including the airbags.
Make improvements in critical areas such as risk management, quality control, supplier oversight, training and certifications, and implement mandatory whistleblower protections.
Honda also agreed to pay the participating attorneys general a total of $85,151,210.15, of which Ohio’s share is $2,367,714.89.
“As part of these civil settlements, Honda will implement enhanced safety measures it began to develop after learning of Takata’s fraud, including more-rigorous scrutiny and oversight over its suppliers of frontal airbag inflators,” Honda said in its statement. “Additionally, Honda will provide the states with prompt information when Honda learns of any new ruptures of defective Takata airbag inflators in the United States.”
Owners of potentially affected 2001-16 Honda and Acura vehicles can check their vehicle’s recall status at www.recalls.honda.com for Honda owners or www.recalls.acura.com for Acura owners or by calling 1-888-234-2138. The repairs are free, can be completed quickly, and free loaner vehicles are available to vehicle owners during the repair.