American Honda Motor Co. and Honda of American Manufacturing Inc. agreed to pay a total of $85.1 million, of which Ohio’s share is more than $2.3 million, in a multi-state settlement over charges the automaker concealed safety issues tied to defective airbag systems that resulted in 14 American deaths.
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, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said Wednesday.
The settlement, reached between Honda and the attorneys general of 48 states, territories and the District of Columbia, caps 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,” Yost’s office said. “The ruptures resulted in at least 14 deaths and 200 injuries in the U.S. alone.”
“I’d never buy a car if I knew systems meant to save me and my family could actually hurt us,” Yost said in his release. “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 states made the case that Honda engineers suspected that the airbags’ propellant, ammonium nitrate, could burn aggressively and cause the inflator to burst. States contended that Honda “delayed warning consumers and safety officials, even as it began partial recalls in 2008 and 2009.”
“Further, Honda continued to represent to consumers that its vehicles, including its airbags, were safe,” Yost’s office said.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, which will be filed with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Honda has agreed to injunctive relief, which, among other things, requires it to ensure that future airbag designs include “fail-safe” features to protect passengers in the event the inflator ruptures.
Consumers who own a Honda or Acura are encouraged to visit Honda’s airbag recall website at Hondaairbaginfo.com, or call its customer service number at 1-888-234-2138, to see if the vehicle is subject to a recall. Consumers may also check for open recalls by going to Safercar.gov.
Honda released a statement in response to Yost’s announcement, saying in part: “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. "
Now bankrupt, Takata pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal criminal fraud charges for “deceiving” automakers about the safety of its airbags, Honda added.