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Takata airbag recall tops 50 million

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the recall of Takata airbags affects 19 vehicle producers and 37 million cars and trucks. The airbags are in many well-known models made by Honda, Ford, Mazda, Acura, Nissan, Chrysler and many more. The NHTSA calls it the “largest and most complex” recall for safety in the history of the U.S.

Consumer Reports takes a look at the timeline of the problem and recall efforts, dating to Nov. 7, 2014. On that date, the New York Times ran a story citing Takata workers who said the company knew and covered up the dangerous defects in its product, beginning in the early 2000s.

As several deaths and hundreds of injuries occur over the next 15 years, the NHTSA urges expansion of recall efforts by both the airbag maker and U.S. automakers. As automakers begin adding more vehicles to the recall, the NHTSA fines Takata $14,000 per day in February 2015 for being uncooperative during the agency’s investigation. In May of that same year, the airbag maker acknowledges a problem in certain vehicles and expands its recall.

In November, the NHTSA hands down a penalty of $70 million in cash, with another $130 million in fines should Takata not meet its replacement commitments. The agency also mandates that the airbag maker phase out production and sale of specific airbags.

By May 2016, the recall adds another 35 to 40 million airbags, which comes on top of nearly 29 million already under recall. At this point, little more than 8 million airbags have been replaced. In June, several automakers confirm they are selling new vehicles with airbags that feature Takata’s defective airbag propellant, guaranteeing their inclusion in the recall.

In the face of a $1 billion penalty, $250 million in criminal fines and $850 million in restitution, Takata in February 2017 admits lying to automakers, then files for bankruptcy in June. Meanwhile, carmakers deny knowingly installing the defective airbags.

From a risk perspective, the 11 U.S. deaths tied to the airbags may seem extremely small against the actual number of 50 million-plus recalled products. Those 11 people are precious to their families, however, as are the drivers with injuries tied to the airbags. That number stands at 278 and counting. You can find out if your vehicle’s airbags are being recalled on the NHTSA website.

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