Says, ‘actions by Takata put consumers in danger’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced a settlement with TK Holdings, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Takata, over allegations that the company concealed safety issues related to its airbag systems which were installed in a wide variety of vehicles. TK Holdings filed a chapter 11 bankruptcy in June and the court has confirmed the company’s proposed plan of reorganization.
“Takata’s deceptive practices endanger the lives of Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansas consumers should be able to trust that airbags will protect them, but the actions taken by Takata put consumers in danger. Under the settlement, the company will continue to provide replacement airbags for vehicles impacted – at no cost to the consumer.”
The settlement, reached between attorneys general of 44 states and the District of Columbia and TK Holdings, concludes a multistate investigation into the company’s failure to timely disclose known safety defects associated with certain airbag inflators using phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate as a propellant.
Beginning in 2008, auto manufacturers issued a number of recalls of vehicles containing these airbag inflators in response to ruptures upon deployment of the airbag. More than 50 million airbags in more than 37 million vehicles have been recalled to date, with future anticipated recalls through the end of 2019 likely, bringing the total number of affected airbags to around 65 or 70 million.
The recalls involved the use of phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate to inflate the airbags upon deployment. As the compound was exposed to heat and humidity over time, particularly in warmer and wetter parts of the United States, the propellant degraded. Upon deployment, the inflator could explosively rupture, destroying the metal casing surrounding the propellant and spraying shrapnel into the vehicle’s passenger cabin. At least 20 people have died worldwide and hundreds more have been injured as a result of this defect.
The multistate alleged that the company knew that the airbag inflator posed a safety defect because of testing failures and, indeed, TK Holdings’ parent company pleaded guilty to manipulating testing data and submitting false and misleading reports to auto manufacturers. The company knew about several ruptures which occurred as early as 2004, but appropriate action to recall these unsafe inflators did not occur until November 2014. However, despite this knowledge, the company failed to properly notify regulators and the public of the serious danger posed by this defect.
The states alleged that these actions were unfair and deceptive and that the automaker’s actions violated state consumer protection laws, including Arkansas’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Under the consent decree and settlement agreement, which is subject to final approval by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, TK Holdings and its successor, Reorganized TK Holdings, shall:
- Not advertise or otherwise represent the safety of its airbag systems or phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate in any way that is false, deceptive or misleading;
- Not represent that its airbags are safe unless supported by competent and reliable scientific or engineering evidence;
- Not falsify or manipulate testing data, or provide any testing data that the companies know is inaccurate;
- Except as needed to fulfill its obligations under the various recalls, sell any airbag systems using phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate as a propellant;
- Comply with state and federal law as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration consent order and coordinated remedy order; and
- Continue to cooperate with auto manufacturers to ensure that replacement airbag inflators are made available as expeditiously as possible from all possible sources.
The attorneys general have foregone civil penalties in order to maximize the recovery available to consumers who were the victims of this airbag defect.
In addition to Arkansas, the multistate group, led by Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, also includes Alabama, Alaska, California, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.