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AG Racine Announces $85 Million Multistate Settlement with Honda Over Concealing Airbag Safety Defects

Honda Must Pay Nearly $2 Million to the District, Add Additional Auto Safety Features and Prevention Measures, Make Company-Wide Improvements

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that Honda will pay more than $85 million as part of a multistate settlement with 48 Attorneys General over allegations that the company concealed air bag safety issues in certain Honda and Acura vehicles sold in the United States. The Attorneys General alleged that Honda failed to inform regulators and consumers that the frontal airbags in many Honda and Acura vehicles posed a significant risk of rupture, which could cause metal fragments to fly into the passenger compartments. The ruptures resulted in at least 14 deaths and more than 200 injuries in the U.S. The systems were first installed in Honda vehicles in the 2001 model year and were last installed in the 2016 model. The settlement requires Honda to also implement “fail-safe” features so that future airbag designs will revert to a safety system if a problem occurs, improve processes such as risk management, quality control, and supplier oversight, and integrate preventative procedures into its operations. The District will receive nearly $2 million as part of the settlement.

“This settlement with Honda makes clear that companies, large and small, will face serious consequences when they put profits over protecting the safety of their customers,” said AG Racine. “Our coalition of Attorneys General is pleased that, as a result of this multistate investigation, Honda will now improve vehicle safety for drivers and passengers and implement policies company-wide that will help prevent future deaths and injuries.”

The states alleged that Honda engineers suspected that the substance used to inflate the airbags, ammonium nitrate, could burn aggressively and cause the inflator to burst. Despite these concerns, Honda delayed warning consumers or automobile safety officials, even as it began partial recalls of affected vehicles in 2008 and 2009. Further, Honda continued to represent to consumers that its vehicles, including its airbags, were safe. Since 2008, Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the potentially dangerous inflators.

The states alleged that Honda’s failure to act and its misrepresentations about the safety of its vehicles, were unfair and deceptive, and that Honda’s conduct violated state consumer protection laws, including the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). The CPPA prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unlawful business practices, including misrepresentations regarding a product’s safety.

Under the terms of the consent judgment, Honda must:

  • Pay nearly $2 million to the District: Honda agreed to pay the participating Attorneys General a total of $85,151,210.15. The District’s share totals $1,987,820.17.
  • Ensure “fail-safe” features for future airbag designs: Honda must ensure that future airbag designs include “fail-safe” features to protect passengers in the event the inflator ruptures.
  • Ensure suppliers comply with performance and certification standards: Honda must adopt changes to its procurement process for new frontal airbags to ensure that suppliers have the appropriate industry certifications and satisfy key performance standards, as well as improve record-keeping and parts tracking.
  • Implement preventative measures: To prevent any future deaths or injuries from happening again, Honda must implement reoccurring prevention procedures, such as being required to approve of all new frontal airbag designs before the company will consider them for use in new vehicles.
  • Stop misleading advertisements: Honda is prohibited from posting misleading advertisements and making point of sale representations regarding the safety of Honda’s vehicles, including its airbags.
  • Make company-wide improvements: Honda must make improvements to critical processes such as risk management, quality control, supplier oversight, and training and certifications, and must implement mandatory whistleblower protections.

The multistate group was led by South Carolina, along with the District of Columbia, Arkansas, Connecticut,  Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas – and includes Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

A copy of the complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-08/Honda-Complaint.pdf

A copy of the settlement is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-08/Honda-Settlement.pdf

Vehicle Owners

Owners of Honda or Acura vehicles are strongly encouraged to visit Honda’s airbag recall website at https://hondaairbaginfo.com, or call its Customer Service toll-free number at (888) 234-2138, to see if their vehicle is subject to a recall. You may also check for open recalls by going to Safercar.gov. All safety recall repairs are free at authorized Honda dealers.

Submit a Consumer Complaint

Consumers, including car owners, who have been the victims of unfair or deceptive business practices can file a complaint by calling (202) 442-9828, emailing consumer.protection@dc.gov, or filling out a consumer complaint form online.

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