Takata Seat Belts Under Investigation for Potential Defective Webbing
Takata seat belts may be the next substantial widespread auto safety issue, years after the company went bankrupt due to manufacturing malfunctioning air bag inflators. Millions of vehicles with faulty seat belts could be recalled due to Takata components that may fail.
Joyson Safety Systems is at the center of the controversy. The Chinese-owned automotive supplier purchased some of Takata’s remaining business after it went bankrupt in 2017, and now says it has over 20 years of seat belt webbing testing data with “inaccuracies.”
Auto regulators have begun a probe and have reportedly told automakers to prepare for potential seat belt recalls. If the overall safety of the seat belts cannot be verified, it could impact as much as 30 percent of Japanese vehicles produced worldwide.
Joe Lyon is a leading auto defect attorney reviewing injuries and accidents linked to defective auto parts and auto safety features like seat belts, airbags, braking systems and collision avoidance systems.
The news about the recent seat belt safety issues has safety experts concerned, but it is still unknown how many vehicles may be affected. The airbag scandal led to several lawsuits and a criminal investigation, and the latest issue could also lead to widespread litigation. In 2017, Takata agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to settle the investigation in the United States.
Joyson Safety Systems is now looking over 20 years of data, covering tests conducted at the Takata seat belt plant in Hikone, Japan. The company says it has found evidence that the company altered data when it found seat belt webbing that didn’t meet safety standards.
Takata was one of the world’s largest suppliers of auto safety features before the airbag debacle. In 2014, safety agencies revealed that their airbag inflators could explode and malfunction as they aged. The auto defect was blamed for hundreds of injuries and accidents around the globe. Around 70 million defective air bag inflators were installed in the U.S., and as many as six million vehicles have yet to be repaired.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it is aware of the reports and is gathering information as it becomes available. A spokesman said, “If NHTSA finds that this belt webbing leads to non-compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or otherwise represents an unreasonable risk to public safety, the agency will not hesitate to take appropriate action.”
Takata Seat Belts Recalled
This would not be the first Takata seat belt recall, should safety agencies deem that action necessary. In 1995, the NHTSA announced the second largest recall in the history of the Department of Transportation (DOT), affecting over 8 million automobiles with Takata seat belts, mostly Japanese vehicles made between 1986 and 1991.
The recall was prompted by an investigation of affected Honda vehicles, where owners complained of seat belt buckles that failed to latch, or released automatically during accidents. A total of 11 manufacturers were affected by the investigation: Honda, Isuzu, Nissan, Mazda, Daihatsu, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford and GM.
Some Japanese auto manufacturers stated the reason for some seat belt failures was not due to design, but due to contaminants such as water and soft drinks affecting the button mechanism. An investigation by NHTSA concluded that the cause of the defect was that the buckles were made of plastic that became brittle over time and when pieces detached they jammed release mechanism.
The NHTSA assessed a civil penalty against Honda and Takata for failing to notify the agency about the seat belt defect in a timely manner. The NHTSA believed Honda knew about the seat belt hazard at least five years before the official recall, but never reported the safety issue.
If you or loved one has been injured due to a defective Takata seat belt or airbag, contact an attorney for a free and confidential consultation.