After a year of criticism and pressure from government agencies and Congress, Takata finally apologized for its air bag defects in June 2015. For nearly a year, the company continued to assure customers that their air bags were safe, despite their being linked to at least eight deaths and over 100 injuries.
Following the apology, the company agreed to expand their previous limited regional recalls to all 50 states. And though they have refused to set up a settlement fund to compensate victims for damages, they are planning an advertising campaign to increase awareness of the air bag problems, and to alert consumers of needed repairs.
Takata Dragged Their Feet on Air Bag Repairs
Last year at this time, Takata was still insisting that only regional recalls were necessary to repair faulty air bags. They stated that their internal company tests had revealed the inflators were vulnerable to exploding only when exposed to high temperatures and high absolute humidity.
Critics argued with this logic, claiming that some air bags had exploded in areas of lower humidity, and that recalls needed to be more encompassing to truly protect consumers. These explosions were grisly. Instead of deploying as expected, affected air bags burst open and shot metal and plastic shrapnel into the interior of the vehicle. Occupants suffered from vision and hearing loss, and were struck by pieces that caused knife-like wounds. Some of these pieces lodged in the neck near key blood vessels and caused excessive bleeding that led to death.
Last fall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urged Takata to broaden its recalls, but the company refused, leaving automakers like Honda and Toyota to pick up the slack. These and other automakers have been repairing air bags ever since, going so far as to work with other air bag companies to meet demand for new inflators.
Now that Takata has finally agreed to expand its recalls, it is planning a large outreach effort to get millions of vehicles fixed.
Takata Plans Large Media Campaign to Increase Awareness
According to AutoNews, Takata has proposed a robust digital advertising campaign “designed to support automakers’ efforts to increase recall completion dates.” Since automakers have already been replacing air bag inflators all along, Takata’s efforts will be piggybacking on those, in the hopes of maximizing the number of vehicles that are repaired.
The company plans to start in southern states, sticking to the logic that high temperatures and humidity create the biggest risk. Among these are Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Ads will also be shown in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The company is focusing on digital advertising on websites, including CNN and Yahoo!. They will also be putting ads on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. These will include banner ads that read “urgent airbag recall notice.” Takata also plans a direct mail program that is expected to reach about 85 percent of the U.S. market.
What’s Causing Air Bag Explosions?
Just what caused these air bags to explode is still unknown. In addition to the high humidity and high temperature theories, Takata also believes a manufacturing defect in some of the canisters may have played a part, as well as the age of the inflator.
Former employees of the company have expressed concern about the chemical used in the inflators, namely, “ammonium nitrate.” Takata switched to this chemical in 2001 despite concerns from engineers that the chemical was unstable. Members of Congress are still pressing the company to prove the safety of this chemical.
Takata continues to assert that it is testing the air bags to determine the source of the explosions. Their “testing plan” remains mostly confidential, however.
The NHTSA has urged consumers to get their vehicles fixed as soon as possible.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.