Competition in the automotive market theoretically prompts automakers to build cars that are safer and more efficient in order to gain market advantage. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work out in practice when major auto companies all source certain parts from the same manufacturer. The top car brands in the world all seemed to rely on air bag inflators from Takata, the now-bankrupt Japanese company responsible for producing tens of millions of defective products in the form of inflators that can activate with too much pressure, causing an explosion that sends shrapnel into the cab of a vehicle.
Worldwide, defective Takata inflators have been blamed for 27 deaths – 18 of which have occurred in the United States. The Takata air bag scandal is responsible for the largest auto recall campaign in history. The worldwide recall numbers come to about 100 million inflators, including 63 million in the U.S. alone. The vast majority of recalled parts were already in vehicles, meaning that the vehicles themselves needed to be recalled.
General Motors finally expands scope of recall
This recall effort has been going on for years, and it would be tempting to assume that U.S. car companies seized an opportunity to show themselves as responsible and responsive. Unfortunately, that’s not case for every company. General Motors will now recall millions of additional SUVs and pickup trucks, but only because a federal regulatory agency is forcing them to do so.
In November 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required General Motors to recall 6 million vehicles still containing the dangerous and defective Takata air bag inflators. Since it must participate in the U.S. recall anyway, GM expanded that recall to 7 million vehicles worldwide.
GM hasn’t just passively waited to take action – it has actively sought permission to avoid taking action. The company reportedly petitioned the NHTSA four times in the last four years to be excluded from the recall, claiming that its own testing revealed its Takata air bag inflators to be safe. The agency took a long time to reach a conclusion on the matter, but ultimately decided that the GM vehicles were unsafe and needed to be recalled.
Who bears liability for deaths and injuries?
In personal injury and wrongful death litigation stemming from defective and dangerous auto parts, the parts manufacturer would likely be named as a defendant, as would the auto manufacturer that allowed defective parts to be placed into the vehicle. Ultimately, however, automakers do themselves a greater disservice by trying to evade responsibility and slowing down the recall process. They may pay the price in greater legal liability, and they certainly pay the price in lost customers and reduced brand loyalty.
If you have been seriously injured or a loved one has been killed because of an automotive defect, please speak to a skilled and experienced products liability attorney about your rights and legal options.