COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson today announced a more than $85 million multi-state settlement with Honda, over allegations Honda concealed safety issues related to defects in the frontal airbag systems installed in certain Honda and Acura vehicles sold in the United States.
The systems were designed and manufactured by Takata Corporation, a long-time Honda supplier, and were first installed in Honda vehicles in the 2001 model year.
The settlement, reached between the attorneys general of 48 states, territories, and the District of Columbia and Honda, concludes a multi-state investigation into Honda’s alleged 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 many Honda and Acura vehicles.
The ruptures have resulted in at least 14 deaths and over 200 injuries in the United States alone.
“My Office led this investigation because of our concern that Honda turned a blind eye to airbag safety with deadly consequences,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “This settlement holds Honda accountable for its conduct and requires Honda to take needed action to ensure that its airbags do their job of protecting South Carolina drivers from serious harm.”
The states have alleged that Honda engineers suspected that the airbags’ propellant, ammonium nitrate, could burn aggressively and cause the inflator to burst.
Despite these concerns, Honda delayed warning consumers or automobile safety officials, even as it began partial recalls of affected vehicles in 2008 and 2009.
Further, Honda continued to represent to consumers that its vehicles, including its airbags, were safe, according to a press release.
Since 2008, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the suspect inflators.
The states have alleged that Honda’s actions, or perhaps more accurately 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 the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, which will be filed with the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, Honda has agreed to strong injunctive relief, which, among other things, require it:
• To take steps to ensure that future airbag designs include “fail-safe” features to protect passengers in the event the inflator ruptures.
• To adopt changes to its procurement process for new frontal airbags, to ensure that its suppliers have the appropriate industry certifications and satisfy key industry performance standards, as well as improve record-keeping and parts tracking.
• To implement recurrence prevention procedures designed to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again, such as requiring that Honda approve all new frontal airbag designs before the company will consider them for use in new Honda vehicles.
• To abide by prohibitions on misleading advertisements and point of sale representations regarding the safety of Honda’s vehicles, including the airbags.
• To make improvements in critical areas such as risk management, quality control, supplier oversight, training and certifications, and implementing mandatory whistle blower protections.
Honda also agreed to pay the participating attorneys general a total of $85,151,210.15, of which South Carolina’s share is $3,630,931.05.
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