Miller: Agreement requires automaker to make changes
DES MOINES ― Honda has agreed to pay more than $85 million in a multistate settlement over allegations the automaker concealed safety issues related to defects in the frontal airbag systems installed in certain Honda and Acura vehicles sold in the United States.
As a result of the settlement, the state of Iowa will receive nearly $1.25 million, Attorney General Tom Miller announced.
“This settlement requires that Honda make several changes in its practices to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again,” Miller said.
The systems were designed and manufactured by Takata Corp., a long-time Honda supplier, and were first installed in Honda vehicles in the 2001 model year. Since 2008, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the suspect airbags. The settlement contains a list of vehicles originally equipped with the inflators.
The settlement was reached between American Honda Motor Co. and Honda of America Mfg., Inc. and the attorneys general of 48 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. The agreement 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.
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.
In a lawsuit, Iowa alleged that Honda’s failures to act, as well as its misrepresentations about the safety of its vehicles, were unfair and deceptive and violated Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, which was filed in Polk County District Court on Tuesday, 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, 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 whistleblower protections.
In addition to Iowa, the multistate group – led by South Carolina, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas – includes Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Is your vehicle affected?
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 (888) 234-2138, to see if their vehicle is subject to a recall. Consumers may also check for open recalls by going to Safercar.gov. All safety recall repairs are free at authorized Honda dealers.