Herring announces $85M settlement with Honda over deadly airbag defects
Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced a more than $85 million multistate settlement with American Honda Motor Co. Inc. and Honda of America Mfg. Inc. over allegations that 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. Virginia will receive nearly $2 million as its share of the settlement.
The settlement, reached between 48 state and territorial attorneys general and Honda, concludes a multistate 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.
“Virginians have a right to be protected from defective products and they deserve to know when they are driving a car with extremely dangerous airbags that could potentially hurt them,” said Herring. “This settlement sends a strong message to businesses that failure to disclose dangerous product defects will not be tolerated. My team and I remain committed to holding auto manufacturers accountable if they put unsafe vehicles on Virginia’s roads.
Herring and his colleagues 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. 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 conduct relating to safety of its vehicles was deceptive, and that it violated state consumer protection laws, including the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
Under the terms of the Consent Judgment, which will be filed for approval with the Henrico County Circuit Court, 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 beforethe 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 its vehicles, including the airbags.
- To make improvements in critical areas such as risk management, quality control, supplier oversight, training and certifications, and implementing mandatory whistleblower protections.
Honda also agreed to pay the participating attorneys general a total of $85,151,210.15, of which Virginia’s share is $1,954,154.58.