Attorney General Eric Schmitt and a coalition of state attorneys general today announced a more than $85 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.
The settlement, reached between Honda and the attorneys general of 47 states, districts, and territories, concludes a multistate investigation into Honda’s alleged failure to inform regulators and consumers of 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.
“One of the most important functions of the Attorney General’s Office is to protect Missouri consumers, and a large part of that is holding companies, no matter how big, accountable for their actions that have harmed consumers,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “My office will continue to work with other state attorneys general on consumer issues.”
The states allege 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, despite these concerns, 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 allege that Honda’s conduct constituted unfair and deceptive acts and omissions in violation of state consumer protection laws, including Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act.
Under the terms of the Consent Judgment, which will be filed with the Cole County Circuit Court, Honda has agreed to strong injunctive relief, including:
- Taking steps to ensure that future airbag designs include “fail-safe” features to protect passengers in the event the inflator ruptures.
- Adopting 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.
- Implementation of 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.
- Prohibitions on misleading advertisements and point of sale representations regarding the safety of Honda’s vehicles, including the airbags.
- Making 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 over $85 million, of which Missouri’s share is over $1.6 million.
In addition to Missouri, the multistate group – led by South Carolina, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas – includes Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, 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 www.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 dealers.