The New York Times is reporting Toyota, Ford, Nissan and Honda knew about the Takata airbag fault for years but kept installing them into new vehicles.
The claims were made in a new class action law suit filed in Florida on Monday.
Honda has already strenuously denied the new allegations, releasing a statement which said: “Honda reasonably believed, based on extensive test results provided by Takata, that they were safe.”
It’s explosive news as so far the U.S. Federal Justice Department’s criminal investigation – linked to 11 fatalities and 100 injuries in North America – is based on the premise that Takata manipulated safety data to conceal the defect from their customers, the vehicle manufacturers.
According to the New York Times, this new suit points to vehicle manufacturers pressuring Takata and other suppliers to cut costs. Although Honda denied this claim saying sometimes Takata airbags were actually more expensive than those manufactured by other companies.
The Florida filing came hours before Takata pleaded guilty in the Justice Department’s case moving prosecutors to fine three executive for fabricating the test data and fining Takata $US1 billion.
Further to the new filing, lawyers have now objected to the Justice Department’s outcome, and seek to implicate the vehicle manufacturers as accomplices in order to seek further compensation for victims (in addition the $US125 million already procured from Takata) from a $US850 million airbag recall fund.
However the judge has rejected the new filing and advised the action against vehicle manufacturers should go to a civil court.
The case centres on faulty Takata airbags which have violently ruptured, sending metal fragments into the faces of drivers and passengers.
According to the new suit, emails obtained from Honda show it was involved in developing a new airbag propellant (used in the inflator mechanism) as far back as 1999-2000 and, in order to save costs, pressured Takata to use it. The suit says both companies were aware of an airbag explosion in a Honda Accord in Alabama in 2004 but the first airbag-related recalls did not start until 2008.
The suit claims a Takata inflator ruptured during testing at a Toyota facility in 2003 and that Nissan, aware that the Takata inflators became unstable when exposed to moisture, began adding a drying agent back in 2005. It also claims Ford’s expert on airbag inflators objected to the use of Takata airbags but concerns were overlooked because Takata was the only manufacturer able to supply airbags in the large numbers required.