There is a new airbag recall affecting 5 million vehicles worldwide and approximately 2.2 million in the U.S. The defect has already reportedly been linked to numerous injuries, and there are reports the German manufacturer and the automakers have been aware of the issue for several years now.
We are of course familiar with that modus operandi from Takata, a Japanese airbag manufacturer that knew of – and informed automakers – of a serious product defect as early as 2004. The company waited four years before recalling just 4,000 of the 24 million vehicles affected. Now, that problem has been connected to 10 deaths and 100 injuries, and although a full recall by 14 car makers was issued, millions of these defective vehicles still remain on U.S. roads.
In the latest recall, the supplier is Continental Automotive Systems, and the manufacturers that have so far stepped forward are Honda and Fiat Chrysler. Other manufacturers Volvo Trucks and Mazda have not yet issued recalls, but are investigating whether that is necessary. The issue is that an controlling electrical component made by Continental has the potential for corrosion. This could – and apparently in some cases already has – result in the airbags failing to deploy or deploying inadvertently.
A spokeswoman for Continental recently told The New York Times that the company has known about the issue for eight years. When they first learned about it in 2008, she said they disclosed it to auto manufacturers, and it was up to those manufacturers to decide whether a recall was warranted.
It’s not entirely surprising that the company would try to pass the buck, but the fact is, both the supplier and the car makers had a legal duty to immediately – within five days – inform U.S. regulators of a defect with the potential to affect the safety of consumers.
Instead, the company quietly fixed the defect by making updates to its newer models made after 2008. But in the meantime, at least nine people have suffered serious personal injury as a result of unwittingly operating or riding in defective vehicles. The actual number of injuries is almost certainly higher, as it is highly likely some who were hurt have no idea the reason is because of this issue.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) didn’t even know about it until it heard of an injury lawsuit filed three years ago after a 2008 auto accident in which it was alleged the airbag malfunctioned. The lawsuit was against Honda, but it was Continental that conducted an analysis of the control unit and found it had malfunctioned.
This is being cited as clear evidence both companies knew there was a problem long before this 2016 airbag recall was announced.
Continental spokeswoman said the company is aware of 500 complaints made by consumers about the defect, but most of those involved the airbag light being illuminated, not a failed airbag or improperly deploying.
Fiat Chrysler has said it was unaware of the problem because when Continental fixed the defect in parts made after 2008, it didn’t change the part number.
Another matter of concern is the fact that suppliers only have limited replacement parts as of right now. Some auto makers say they will begin informing car owners about the problem starting in the spring if their vehicles are affected, and will notify them again as parts become available.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Yet Another Airbag Recall Will Affect Five Million, Feb. 4, 2016, By Hiroko Tabuchi and Christopher Jensen, The New York Times
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