Attorney General Chris Carr announced on Tuesday that an $85.1 million multistate settlement with American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and Honda of America Mfg., Inc. (collectively “Honda”), over allegations Honda concealed safety issues related to defects in the frontal airbag systems installed in certain Honda and Acura vehicles sold in the United States. The systems were designed and manufactured by Takata Corporation, a long-time Honda supplier, and were first installed in Honda vehicles in the 2001 model year.
“Marketing its vehicles as safe, despite numerous signs that these airbags posed a significant threat to consumers, was wrong,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “Our office will remain vigilant as we continue to protect Georgians from unlawful actions that pose a threat to their health and safety.”
The settlement, reached between Honda and the attorneys general of 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, 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. Since 2008, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the suspect inflators.
The states have 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 Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, which will be filed with the Superior Court of Fulton County, 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.
- 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 designed to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again, 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.
Honda also agreed to pay the participating attorneys general a total of over $85.1 million, of which Georgia’s share is $3,287,636.15.
The multistate group – led by Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas – also includes Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, 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.
Consumers who own a Honda or Acura vehicle are strongly encouraged to visit Honda’s airbag recall website at https://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. Consumers can also contact the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Division at (404) 651-8600 with any questions about this settlement.