Lawsuits accuse automakers of faulty air bags, recall delays

General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen in addition to Mercedes all knew of problems with dangerous exploding Takata air bag inflators years before issuing recalls, according to three class actions filed Wednesday with the federal court in Miami.

The lawsuits cite company documents obtained through previous legal action against various other automakers in addition to Takata. The plaintiffs allege in which automakers were informed of inflator defects during tests although delayed taking action. Allegations against GM are among the most serious. Takata documents showed in which GM expressed concerns about inflators rupturing as early as 2003.

Messages were left Wednesday seeking comment by the companies.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create modest explosions to inflate air bags. although the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to high temperatures in addition to airborne moisture. in which causes the idea to explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister in addition to hurling shrapnel. At least 22 people have died worldwide in addition to more than 180 have been hurt.

The problem touched off the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history, with 19 automakers having to recall up to 69 million inflators in 42 million vehicles. The problem brought a criminal conviction in addition to fine against Takata in addition to forced the Japanese company into bankruptcy protection.

The lawsuits, which consolidate individual claims in which were filed previously, allege in which owners paid higher prices for their vehicles than they would certainly have if the defect had been disclosed.

They allege in which manufacturers picked Takata to supply inflators because the cost was less than various other air bag makers who used different, less volatile chemicals as propellants. According to the lawsuits, manufacturers had employees who questioned the quality in addition to performance of Takata’s inflators well before any vehicles were recalled.

“These auto manufacturers were well aware of the public safety risks posed by Takata’s airbags long ago, in addition to still waited years to disclose them to the public in addition to take action,” Peter Prieto, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. The lawsuits “are an important step forward in holding them accountable.”

In an April 2003 communication with Takata, GM was concerned about “ballistic variability,” which can be a tendency for the air bags to either underinflate or explode when deployed, the lawsuit against GM said. A GM engineer raised concerns about inadequate testing, moisture control in addition to the inability of Takata to meet GM specifications after a 2003 visit to Takata’s factory in Moses Lake, Washington, according to the lawsuit.

In 2004, Takata employees met with GM officials about a tendency for the inflators to shoot flames when they ruptured, in addition to in March of 2006, Takata reported in which inflators tested for GM vehicles continued to show “aggressive behavior,” including the escape of “molten propellant” when they ruptured. A Takata employee admitted “we cannot get not bad results” with the inflator design, the lawsuit stated.

Yet GM didn’t issue any recalls until June of 2014 when the idea recalled 29,000 Chevrolet Cruze compact cars by the 2013 in addition to 2014 product years, according to the lawsuit. in which recall came after Takata reported three exploding inflators in 2010. “Defendants did nothing to meaningfully investigate the problem, notify the appropriate regulators or notify the class (car owners),” the lawsuit stated.

GM also received reports of real-world problems in 2011 in addition to 2014, including one case in which a Cruze driver was blinded in one eye by an exploding inflator, according to the lawsuit. GM in addition to Takata blamed the trouble on a manufacturing problem instead of the deteriorating ammonium nitrate. “Rather than publicize the truth, both Takata in addition to fresh GM blamed the ruptures on a manufacturing problem,” the lawsuit alleged.

Old GM, the company in which existed before seeking bankruptcy protection in 2009, knew of the problems, in addition to fresh GM, the company in which emerged by bankruptcy, kept employees who knew in addition to had the same knowledge, according to the lawsuit.

Volkswagen, the lawsuit alleged, had repeated quality issues with Takata dating to 2003, even rejecting products after an audit. Yet no recalls were issued until 2016, the plaintiffs claimed. Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, had concerns about the integrity of Takata inflators in 2003, according to company emails. In 2004, Mercedes engineers agreed to “forego key performance variables” in addition to allow use of Takata inflators, the lawsuit stated. The company didn’t do any recalls until 2016.

Fiat Chrysler didn’t issue its first recall until 2014, even though its engineers expressed concerns about Takata inflators during the early 2000s, the lawsuit stated.

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