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Takata Makes Public Apology for Air Bag Defects

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“Better late than never,” so the saying goes. But in this case, it’s hard to tell if it applies.

Air-bag manufacturer Takata has finally apologized for the faulty air bags that have caused at least eight deaths and over 100 injuries. CEO Shigehisa Takada made the public statement at a news conference on June 25, 2015. According to the New York Times, he said the following after bowing deeply:

“I apologize from my heart to those who have died or been injured. I feel a heavy responsibility.”

Victims of Takata air bag problems have been surprised at the CEO’s reticence to take more responsibility up to this point. For nearly a year, the company continued to stand behind their products, assuring customers they were safe. They limited recalls to areas of high temperature and humidity despite pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and others to expand those recalls to include all 50 states.

Takata left it up to auto manufacturers to pick up the slack. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler, and more implemented recalls to replace the faulty air bags. Honda went so far as to make arrangements with other air bag companies to meet the demand for replacement parts. The Times states that to date, “about 35 million vehicles worldwide have been affected.”

Takata Finally Takes Responsibility for Faulty Air Bags

Denial has been a way of doing business for Takata for over a year. Even as reports came in month after month of people being maimed and killed by exploding Takata air bags, the company continued to maintain that its products were not defective. When the NHTSA called for a broader recall in the fall of 2014, Takata refused, stating that such an expansion was not necessary.

That changed in May 2015. Finally, Takata admitted that its air bags were faulty, and could explode upon deployment, putting occupants in danger. They also finally implemented the broader recall that governing bodies and the public had been calling for, doubling the number of vehicles recalled in the U.S. The resulting recall became the largest ever in American history.

Takata continue to investigate the defective air bags, as the exact cause of the explosions has yet to be fully determined.

Takata Air Bags Can Explode and Injure Occupants

The problem with the air bags is that under certain conditions, instead of deploying correctly, they can rupture and explode, sending shrapnel into the interior of the car. Occupants have been hit by these sharp pieces of metal and plastic, suffering wounds that have sometimes been described as knife-like stab wounds. Some victims have survived to suffer from lasting vision and hearing loss, as well as scarring and other injuries. Others have suffered hits to the neck and chest that cause unstoppable bleeding and lead to death.

There has been some progress in figuring out the cause of the problem. Takata has admitted to some manufacturing defects in the air bag inflators, and has identified prolonged exposure to heat and humidity as potential factors, especially where older inflators are concerned. There has also been some concern about the chemicals used in the inflators, namely, ammonium nitrate, which is considered to be unstable at high temperatures. So far, Mr. Takada has maintained that ammonium nitrate is safe.

The issue remains a concern, as some of the replacement air bags use ammonium nitrate, as well. Fiat Chrysler has stated that they will no longer use Takata products to fulfill recall repairs because they continue to use the unstable chemical.