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Takata air bag recall scandal drags on for years

If you follow the news or happen to own a car, you are no doubt familiar with the Takata air bag recall scandal that has been in the news since at least 2013. You may have even brought your car into a dealership to have the recall work completed.

For those who may not remember, the defective Takata air bag inflators can inflate with too much force, causing the metal housing to explode. This, in turn, sends shrapnel flying into the cab of the vehicle. Failures are especially likely to occur in hot and humid climates like Texas. The faulty inflators have killed at least 27 people worldwide, 18 of which were here in the United States. Because nearly every major automaker purchased parts from Takata, the recall has included about 63 million vehicles – the largest recall effort in history.

Believe it or not, the practical aspects of the recall are not yet finished. Recently, millions more vehicles were added to the list here in the U.S.

General Motors forced to recall millions of vehicles

Companies concerned about a safety defect can issue their own automotive recalls. Given how serious the Takata inflator news was, automakers would have been wise to issue their own recalls. Unfortunately, most manufacturers wait until a recall is mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

General Motors did more than drag its feet on a recall. Since 2016, GM has petitioned the NHTSA at least four times seeking to be excluded from the Takata recall. Although the decision was long in coming, the regulatory agency recently ordered GM to recall six million vehicles domestically – mostly SUVs and big pickup trucks. The automaker has expanded the recall to seven million vehicles worldwide.

Assessing liability and seeking compensation

Those of us who have brought in our recalled vehicles for free repairs are the lucky car owners, in that our vehicles were fixed before disaster struck. Others weren’t so lucky. In addition to those who died, there are likely many more who suffered serious injuries due to underperforming/non-performing air bags, exposure to shrapnel or both.

Who is legally liable in a case like this? Takata is perhaps the guiltiest party, and the company has been bankrupted by the scandal. But automakers also share some blame for failing to ensure that the parts put into their vehicles were safe and effective. And the longer that certain auto companies wait to issue necessary recalls, the more liability they potentially expose themselves to.