The Takata airbag scandal, which prompted the largest recall in United States automotive history, dates back to at least 1999 when the company began manufacturing airbags. A complete timeline of the events up until May of 2017 is available, but the highlights begin around the year 2000.
This is when internal documents indicate that the airbag inflators are not functioning correctly. Some of these inflators have ruptured in tests. The first reported rupture occurs in a 2001 Honda Accord, taking place in Alabama in 2004.
In 2007, Honda reports three incidents of ruptured airbags to Takata. Honda orders a recall of 4,000 vehicles with possibly defective Takata airbags in May 2008. Just over a year later, in June 2009, Honda’s list of recalled vehicles expands to include a half a million airbags.
It is not until June of 2014 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opens a formal investigation regarding the defective Takata airbags.
By May 2015, Takata agrees to recall some 32 million airbag inflators. Just a year later in May 2016, Takata adds another 35-40 million airbag inflators, making the Takata airbag recall the largest in automotive history. It has sent the company into bankruptcy.
It is in February of 2017 that Takata pleads guilty to criminal charges of wire fraud in the United States for covering up the defective airbags. They agree to pay $1 billion in penalties.
As of May 2018, the Takata airbag recall list continues to grow and automakers are expected to continue announcing recalls into 2019.
Since 2009, there have been 22 deaths reported that have been directly linked to the defective airbags. 15 of these deaths have been in the United States, along with some 278 injuries.
Beginning in October 2014, automaker customers and victims of ruptured airbags file the first of many class-action lawsuits in Florida against Takata, Honda, and Toyota are filed. The lawsuits claim that all three companies had prior knowledge of the defective airbags and failed to act.
Several automakers have utilized the defective airbags, which use a chemical called ammonium nitrate to deploy the airbag in an accident. The problem comes in the fact that ammonium nitrate can degrade over time and degrades faster in warm, humid environments. After the chemical has degraded, the airbag can deploy with too much force, sending deadly shrapnel flying through the vehicle.
While Honda is probably the most affected by the recall, almost every automaker has been affected to some extent or another. Domestic automakers such as Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC are affected as are German and Japanese automakers like BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz as well as Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Mitsubishi are all affected. Many other automakers are affected by the ever-expanding recall lists, which continue to grow.
For a complete list of automakers and the makes and models that are affected by the recall, you can visit the NHTSA website here. You can also see a list of affected vehicles reported here, as well, but the NHTSA site has the most up-to-date information.