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Federal automobile safety regulators indicate that only between one-fifth and one quarter of all recalled Takata airbags have been replaced, with efforts focused on vehicles registered in areas of high humidity, where the device may be more likely to rupture and explode, sending pieces of debris flying toward vehicle occupants in an accident.
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held a public information meeting to update the status of the massive effort to recall Takata airbag inflators, which have been linked to at least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries when the device caused airbags to over-inflate and rupture.
Despite the serious risks posed by the Takata airbags, repairs have moved slowly, with only a few million vehicles fixed so far. In addition, many vehicle owners remain unaware that their car has a potentially dangerous airbag installed that could overinflate and rupture, firing deadly shrapnel inside the vehicle.
The NHTSA reports that 22.5% of recalled Takata vehicles have been seen and had their airbags replaced. The replacements have been focused on areas of high humidity, where the ruptures are considered more likely. About 30% of vehicles in those regions have been repaired.
Takata has ramped up production of replacement airbag inflators to 2.8 million units per month. However, most of those are being subcontracted to other parts suppliers.
According to the briefing, as of September 16, there have been 44 different recalls issued involving Takata airbag inflators used in 19 million vehicles across the U.S. The NHTSA says that while about a dozen auto manufacturers have been affected by the recalls, five of those account for most of the affected vehicles.
BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Mazda and Honda recalls have accounted for 14 million of the vehicles recalled.
Takata Airbag Inflator Lawsuits
A growing number of Takata airbag lawsuits continue to be filed nationwide on behalf of individuals who suffered severe injuries from an exploding airbag. All involve similar allegations that design defects caused the airbags to overinflate and rupture.
Since February 2015, all federal airbag lawsuits against Takata have been centraliszed before one judge for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
Complaints filed throughout the federal court system are transferred to U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in the Southern District of Florida to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
Given the lack of a Takata airbag settlement fund to attempt to resolve claims early in the process, injured individuals and families of those killed may face years of litigation before compensation is obtained.