California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced an $11.375 million settlement against American Honda Motor Company, Inc. and Honda of America Mfg., Inc. (together, “Honda”) related to allegations that the company concealed safety issues associated with defects in the frontal airbag systems designed and manufactured by Takata Corporation that were installed in certain Honda and Acura vehicles sold in the United States. California’s settlement, reached in parallel with a related multistate settlement, resolves an investigation into Honda’s alleged failure to inform regulators and consumers that the airbags posed a risk of exploding when deployed, sending shrapnel into the car even in minor collisions. Honda has also agreed to numerous injunctive terms to protect consumers, including requirements that it include design features that protect vehicle occupants in the event of an airbag rupture and a prohibition from engaging in false or misleading advertising related to the safety of its frontal airbags.
“For years, Honda failed to warn consumers and regulators of the potential dangers of its airbags. That type of business practice not only violates Californians’ trust but endangers lives,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Every time we get into our vehicle, safety is a priority. In case any company forgets that, California is ready to remind you and hold you accountable.”
Since 2001, Honda has installed millions of Takata’s faulty airbags into its vehicles. While Takata allegedly concealed the risks of its airbags’ safety from Honda, the investigation revealed Honda engineers suspected Takata’s airbags posed a significant risk of rupture by no later than July 2009. Notwithstanding these concerns, Honda failed to inform regulators and consumers of the airbags’ dangers. These ruptures have resulted in at least 14 deaths, including three in California, and over 200 injuries in the United States alone. To date, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the defective airbags.
In addition to the $11.375 million settlement with California and the related multistate settlement, Honda has agreed to injunctive terms, including:
- Prohibitions on misleading advertisements and point of sale representations regarding the safety of Honda’s frontal airbags;
- Improvements in critical areas such as risk management, quality control, supplier oversight, training and certifications, along with mandatory whistleblower protections;
- Changes in Honda’s oversight of the procurement of frontal airbags and improvements to record-keeping and parts tracking;
- The inclusion of design features to protect vehicle occupants in the event of a rupture; and
- The implementation of recurrence prevention procedures obligating Honda to improve its oversight of airbag suppliers and approve the designs and performance of all frontal airbags before Honda will consider them for use in new vehicles.
Attorney General Becerra has remained steadfast in his efforts to safeguard the rights of California’s consumers and hold bad actors accountable. Earlier this year, Attorney General Becerra announced the recovery of $583,333 in a settlement with auto parts manufacturer Corning Incorporated and its subsidiary Corning International Kabushiki Kaisha for antitrust law violations arising from illegal bid rigging. In 2019, Attorney General Becerra secured $78.4 million for California from Fiat Chrysler as part of a $500 million settlement resolving allegations that the company used “defeat devices” to cheat vehicle emissions tests. He also announced the recovery of more than $23 million through settlements with 52 auto parts manufacturers for antitrust law violations arising from illegal bid rigging in response to requests for bids from automobile companies. Previously, Attorney General Becerra announced a $102 million settlement with BP Energy Company and affiliates over allegations that it intentionally overcharged the State of California for natural gas that the State purchased under three successive contracts from March 2003 to August 2012. He also secured a $86 million settlement with Volkswagen for cheating on its diesel-emissions tests and a $120 million multistate settlement with General Motors Company over allegations that the company concealed safety issues related to defective ignition switches in GM vehicles. The stipulation and final judgment will be filed at a later date in superior court and is subject to final approval by the court.