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AG Nessel Announces $85M Multistate Settlement with Honda Over Takata Airbags

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today announced a multistate settlement of more than $85 million with American Honda Motor Co. Inc. and Honda of America Mfg. Inc. (Honda) over allegations that 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 Corp., a long-time Honda supplier, and were first installed in Honda vehicles in the 2001 model year.

Honda agreed to pay the participating attorneys general a total of roughly $84.15 million, of which Michigan’s share is more than $2.14 million. Honda will also pay $1 million to the National Association of Attorneys General Training and Research Institute Endowment Fund.

The settlement 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.

“Consumers should be able to rely on the products that are designed to keep them safe and if companies that use those products fail to ensure the safety standards outlined by our laws, they can expect to answer for that negligence,” Nessel said. “This settlement requires Honda to be upfront with its customers about its products and establishes protocols it must follow to avoid repeating its mistakes.”

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. Honda continued to tell consumers that its vehicles, including its airbags, were safe. Since 2008, Honda has recalled roughly 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the suspect inflators.

The number of affected vehicles in Michigan is 183,038. Of these, nearly 79 percent – or 144,037 – have been repaired. There are 39,001 unrepaired. All safety recall repairs are free at authorized Honda dealers.

The coalition of attorneys general have alleged that Honda’s 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.

Under the terms of Michigan’s consent judgment, to be filed with the Ingham County Circuit Court, Honda has agreed to strong injunctive relief, which, among other things, require 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 considers 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; and 
  • To make improvements in critical areas such as risk management, quality control, supplier oversight, training and certifications, and implementing mandatory whistleblower protections. 

In addition to Michigan, 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, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia,  Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Consumers who own a Honda or Acura vehicle are strongly encouraged to visit Honda’s airbag recall website 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 online at a website established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.