AG Grewal announces $3 million settlement with Honda over faulty airbag systems
State to Receive Share of $85 Million Multistate Agreement Resolving Allegations Honda Failed to Disclose Danger from Airbags Caused by Tendency to Rupture
NEW JERSEY – Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Tuesday that New Jersey will receive around $3.06 million as part of an $85 million multistate settlement with American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and Honda of America Mfg., Inc., resolving allegations that Honda concealed safety issues related to defective frontal airbag systems in certain vehicles sold in the United States.
The settlement concludes an investigation into Honda’s alleged failure to inform regulators and consumers that the frontal airbags in affected Honda and Acura vehicles posed a significant risk of rupture. When such ruptures occurred, the resulting burst sent metal fragments flying around vehicle passenger compartments at high rates of speed. To date, 14 deaths and more than 200 injuries have been attributed to the airbag ruptures in the U.S. alone.
In addition to the damages, Honda will be required to take a number of important steps to ensure that future airbag designs include “fail-safe” features to protect passengers in the future, as well as to reform their procurement and advertising processes.
“Today’s settlement is an important victory in our ongoing fight to hold manufacturers accountable for selling defective products, and for misleading their consumers in the process,” Grewal said. “Honda’s actions put consumers at risk, which is why we’re holding them responsible. Not only are the states obtaining damages, but we’ve also won a number of terms to ensure Honda vehicles are properly equipped and that the company will take additional steps to safety and transparency. The safety of residents must come first.”
“We are committed to ensuring that manufacturers refrain from misleading claims about product safety, and to holding them accountable when they engage in conduct that – either through action or omission – puts consumers at risk,” said Acting Division of Consumer Affairs Director Paul R. Rodríguez. “Under this settlement, we are not only requiring that Honda include design features in their vehicles to increase passengers safety, we are also requiring the company to adopt greater vigilance when it comes to airbag safety and improve critical internal processes to ensure accountability – including risk management, quality control and training. These requirements make today’s settlement important beyond the dollars.”
New Jersey is part of a 12-member Executive Committee of the multi-state Working Group that led the settlement.
The air bag systems at issue 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 participating states and other jurisdictions alleged that Honda’s engineers suspected a problem with the Takata airbags’ propellant – ammonium nitrate. Specifically, they alleged that Honda suspected the chemical could burn aggressively and cause the airbags’ inflators to burst.
Despite these concerns, Honda delayed warning consumers or automobile safety officials, even as it began partial recalls of the affected vehicles in 2008 and 2009.
In addition, Honda allegedly continued to represent to consumers that its vehicles – including the airbags – were safe.
Since 2008, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the faulty inflators.
Today’s settlement resolves allegations that Honda’s conduct regarding the faulty airbags, its failures to act, and its concealment of the problem – as well as its misrepresentations about the safety of its vehicles – violated consumer protection laws in the participating jurisdictions.
A Consent Judgment filed Tuesday includes a variety of strong injunctive relief terms including requirements that Honda:
- Take steps to ensure that future airbag designs include “fail-safe” features to protect passengers in the event the inflator ruptures.
- Adopt changes to its procurement process for new frontal airbags that include improved record-keeping and parts tracking, and ensuring that its suppliers have the appropriate industry certifications, while also satisfying key industry performance standards.
- Implement recurrence prevention processes designed to avoid future airbag dangers by requiring that Honda approve all new frontal airbag designs before the company will consider them for use in new Honda vehicles.
- Not engage in misleading advertisements and point-of-sale representations concerning the safety of Honda’s vehicles, including the airbags.
- Make improvements in critical areas such as risk management, quality control, supplier oversight, training and certification, as well as the implementation of mandatory whistleblower protections.
Consumers who own a Honda or Acura vehicle are strongly encouraged to visit Honda’s airbag recall website at hondaairbaginfo.com or call its customer service toll-free number at 1-888-234-2138, to see if their vehicle is subject to a recall.