(COLUMBUS, OHIO) – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today announced a more than $85 million multistate settlement with American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and Honda of America Mfg., Inc. over allegations the automaker concealed safety issues related to defective airbag systems in certain Honda and Acura vehicles. The systems were designed and manufactured by Takata Corp., a longtime Honda supplier, and were first installed in vehicles sold in the United States in the 2001 model year.
The settlement, reached between Honda and the attorneys general of 48 states, territories and the District of Columbia, concludes a multistate investigation into Honda’s 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 vehicles. The ruptures resulted in at least 14 deaths and 200 injuries in the U.S. alone.
“I’d never buy a car if I knew systems meant to save me and my family could actually hurt us,” Yost said. “That is what Honda denied Ohio consumers – the chance to make the best decisions for their families. This agreement will ensure that doesn’t happen again.”
The states made the case 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 and safety officials, even as it began partial recalls in 2008 and 2009. Further, Honda continued to represent to consumers that its vehicles, including its airbags, were safe. Since 2008, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the suspect inflators.
The states alleged that Honda’s actions, or perhaps more accurately its failures to act, as well as its misrepresentations about the safety of its vehicles, were unfair and deceptive, and that Honda’s conduct violated state consumer protection laws, including Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, O.R.C 1345.01 et seq.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, which will be filed with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Honda has agreed to strong injunctive relief which, among other things, requires it to:
- 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 frontal airbags, ensure that its suppliers have the appropriate industry certifications and satisfy key industry performance standards, as well as improve record-keeping and parts tracking.
- Implement recurrence prevention procedures designed to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, such as requiring that Honda approve all new frontal airbag designs before the company will consider them for use in new vehicles.
- Abide by prohibitions on misleading advertisements and point of sale representations regarding the safety of Honda’s vehicles, including the airbags.
- Make improvements in critical areas such as risk management, quality control, supplier oversight, training and certifications, and implement mandatory whistleblower protections.
Honda also agreed to pay the participating attorneys general a total of $85,151,210.15, of which Ohio’s share is $2,367,714.89.
In addition to Ohio, the multistate group includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
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 the 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.