It’s been quite some time since we last posted about the Takata airbag recall that has rocked the auto industry for years on end. What initially started with a small post about a recall of 3 million Honda vehicles in 2014 evolved over the next five years into a series that tracked one of the largest scandals in industrial history. By 2018, over 100 million vehicles made by 19 separate automakers would be recalled over fears that a malfunctioning airbag inflator could explode and send shrapnel into the passenger cabin. At least 20 people had been killed by that time in seemingly innocuous collisions that might have led to the exchange of insurance information but were otherwise more than survivable.
2020 will also see Takata airbag recalls as Volkswagen announced that 370,000 of its vehicles need to have their airbags replaced. The recall covers the 2012 to 2019 Beetle and its convertible counterpart, as well as Passats manufactured from 2011 to 2014. VW will execute the recall in a multi-phased rollout that will take four years and is based on the rate that the materials in the inflators are known to degrade. Vehicles that will be in more immediate danger will be recalled and repaired first, while those using inflators with more stable materials will be taken care of in the second and third phases.
The Takata airbag recall has been notable not only because of its scale but also because of the ripple effect it has had. The situation quickly devolved for Takata amid reports of test manipulation and revelations that automakers had been aware of the Takata defect and chose to ignore it. An explosive report by The New York Times detailed a lawsuit which sought to prove that four of the world’s largest auto manufacturers knew that Takata airbags were prone to this kind of failure and chose to install them anyway, in some cases even over the objections of their own internal engineers.
The scandal also led to a shake-up in Takata leadership when news broke that CEO Shigehisa Takada would step down as company CEO. The Takada family has led Takata for over 80 years, but the market quickly lost confidence in their ability to continue to serve the market. As one Japanese auto industry analyst put it, “Nobody wants to see anybody from the Takada family in charge at this point. The Takada family, practically speaking, is being kicked out.”