The following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.
BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, August 25 announced the vehicle manufacturer Honda will pay $85 million in a settlement with 48 states and territories, of which Massachusetts will receive $1.7 million, over allegations that the company concealed safety issues related to defects in the frontal airbag systems in certain Honda and Acura vehicles that have resulted in at least 14 deaths and more than 200 injuries in the United States.
The consent judgment with American Honda Motor Co. Inc. and Honda of America Mfg. Inc., which will be filed in Suffolk Superior Court, concludes a multistate investigation into Honda’s alleged failure to inform regulators and consumers that the airbags posed a significant risk of rupture that could cause metal fragments to fly into the passenger compartments of many Honda and Acura vehicles.
The systems were designed and manufactured by Takata Corporation, a longtime Honda supplier, and were first installed in Honda vehicles in the 2001 model year.
“Honda’s failure to notify consumers of defects in its vehicles’ airbags endangered thousands and put lives at risk,” said AG Healey. “This settlement ensures that Honda takes the necessary steps to protect consumers and fully informs them of any safety issues with Honda vehicles in the future.”
The states allege Honda engineers suspected that the propellant in the airbags could burn aggressively and cause the inflator to burst, but delayed warning consumers or automobile safety officials, even as it began partial recalls of affected vehicles in 2008 and 2009.
Since 2008, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the suspect inflators.
Despite these concerns, Honda continued to represent to consumers that its vehicles, including its airbags, were safe. The states allege that Honda’s failure to act and its misrepresentations about the safety of its vehicles were unfair, deceptive, and violated state consumer protection laws.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, Honda has agreed to:
- Ensure that future airbag designs include features to protect passengers in the event the inflator ruptures.
- 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.
- Prohibit misleading advertisements 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 implementing mandatory whistleblower protections.
In 2017, Takata agreed to significant consumer restitution in a $605 million settlement stemming from the safety issues related to defects in the frontal airbag systems installed in Honda, Acura, and other vehicles. The settlement established a fund to reimburse consumers for economic losses related to Takata’s practices. In addition, Takata is paying on claims to consumers who suffered injury or wrongful death due to these airbags through a personal injury fund.
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 in Massachusetts can also contact AG Healey’s office at 617-727-8400 with any questions about this settlement.
In addition to Massachusetts, the multistate group, led by South Carolina, Arkansas, Connecticut, the 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, 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.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Kimberly McDonald and Deputy Division Chief Shennan Kavanagh of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division.