Monday, July 11, 2016

Open Letter to Auto Manufacturers: Accept Your Responsibility for Takata Airbag Debacle

Dear Automobile Manufacturers,

As I write this letter, there are over 100 million vehicles on the road with defective Takata airbags. You selected Takata as the supplier for these airbags and you installed them in your vehicles. You then sold them to your dealers, and they sold them to over 100 million drivers.

Many of these airbags were installed more than a decade ago and many more are being installed today even though you know them to be dangerous. The metal inflator which contains an unstable explosive propellant, ammonium nitrate, can detonate too forcefully, causing the metal casing to explode into shrapnel, striking the car’s driver and/or passenger. There have been 10 deaths and over 100 injuries due to this in the United States, and many more worldwide.

Because Takata cannot manufacture safe airbag replacements fast enough, the drivers of your vehicles with unsafe airbags cannot have them replaced. They are faced with the dilemma of renting or buying a safe car or driving the dangerous one. Unfortunately, most can afford only the latter option. Car dealers are telling their customers that the waiting list for a safe airbag can be as long as one year.

As the manufacturer of these dangerous vehicles, you must immediately accept the responsibility for keeping their owners and drivers safe. Why? Because you should have been absolutely certain that the maker of one of the most important safety components on your vehicles, the airbag, was building a safe and reliable product. Your due diligence was clearly insufficient. Investigations have revealed that Takata has been aware of this safety problem for many years and covered up the fact that they were supplying you with millions of dangerously defective airbags every year.

You can point the finger of blame at Takata, and they certainly are guilty. However, Takata has not taken any meaningful actions whatsoever to protect the drivers of your vehicles and it’s highly unlikely that they will; their liability is so massive that they cannot afford to do so. Most industry observers believe that Takata will declare bankruptcy, or have their assets acquired absence any liability.

You must protect the drivers of your vehicles now, and take legal action against Takata to recover whatever you can!

As I write this letter, unsuspecting customers continue to buy the defective used cars you manufactured more than a decade ago. Virtually none of these have had their dangerous Takata airbags replaced. Car dealers are under no requirement to even disclose the fact that that the used cars they are selling contain a potentially lethal airbag. CBS News recently aired an exposé on this by sending mystery shoppers into several car dealerships in several different states. Their investigation revealed that no disclosure was offered to the customers. I mystery shopped twenty-four car dealerships in South Florida. I sent my mystery shopper into four and contacted twenty more by telephone. Twenty-three car dealers misrepresented the car the shoppers were buying as not having a recalled Takata airbag. I verified that the cars did, in fact, have dangerous airbags on the NHTSA website,

This is what you must do immediately to stop the deaths and injuries in the vehicles you manufactured:

(1) Order your car dealers not to sell, or allow to be driven, any of the vehicles you manufactured with an unsafe airbag: new or used.

(2) Provide free loaner cars to all owners and drivers of the cars you built with defective airbags until safe airbags can be installed. Honda is already doing this and all manufacturers should follow their example.

(3) Compensate your dealers as well as independent used car dealers for the financial loss they experience by being unable to sell your unsafe vehicles.

(4) Immediately stop manufacturing vehicles that you know to have unsafe airbags. Although you may anticipate eventually being able to replace the faulty airbags, many of these vehicles will find their way into the used vehicle market and in the driveways of unsuspecting consumers prior to being fixed. Millions of these vehicles will never be fixed and remain on the road for years. CarFax data shows that only one in four recalls are ever fixed.

(5) Lobby federal and state governments to pass laws making it illegal to sell a used or new car with an unsafe airbag. 


Earl Stewart

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