Four car makers settle claims over Takata inflators for US$553m

Elbert EdwardsMay 20, 2017

According to a news release, plaintiffs in the Takata Airbag Product Liability Litigation filed class action settlement agreements resolving claims against Toyota, Subaru, Mazda and BMW that will accelerate the removal of risky airbag inflators from 15.8 million affected vehicles while also compensating consumers for their economic losses. Thursday's settlement doesn't cover personal-injury cases that are also part of the sprawling litigation against Takata and auto makers that is consolidated in the Florida court.

Takata airbag inflators have been linked to at least 17 deaths and more than 180 injuries worldwide.

The recalls and accidents set off multiple lawsuits against Takata and the auto companies using the air bags, alleging personal injuries or deaths or economic losses. The issue is critical because the huge recall covers more than a dozen automakers, and NHTSA expects that it will affect 64 to 69 million inflators in 42 million vehicles by 2020. BMW, Mazda, Subaru and Toyota have agreed to jointly provide a total of approximately $553 million to fund consumer outreach, customer reimbursements and rental car/loaner programs in an effort to improve recall remedy completion rates.

The settlement includes a new independent outreach program that seeks to dramatically increase recall remedy completion rates and will regularly contact owners. "It will take years to complete the recalls". Owners getting a recall can be reimbursed for lost wages, transportation and child-care expenses. Toyota had the highest, with 9.2 million affected cars and trucks; Subaru came next, with 2.6 million; BMW followed, with 2.3 milliom; and Mazda came in at a still-significant 1.7 million vehicles with the systems.

Lawsuits against Honda Motor Company HMC, Ford Motor Company F and Nissan Motor have not been settled yet, per the lawyers.

Automakers would be required to provide free rental cars to owners of the highest-risk cars.

Takata agreed to pay $1 billion in criminal penalties in January, including $975 million paid to carmakers and to consumers who purchased vehicles with the company's exploding airbags.

Automakers have recalled 46 million Takata air bag inflators in 29 million US vehicles.

The solution for a mass recall on defective Takata airbags is under way, though it seems to be far from over.

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