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Although airbags have saved thousands of lives since their widespread inception, they have also taken some lives and seriously injured others due to product defects. One of the largest makers of airbags is a company called Takata that has recently presided over one of the largest auto defect recalls in history. The company took a $300 million charge and was even shaken up internally, all due to defective airbags. The recalls involved Honda, Nissan, Toyota and BMW’s, and have affected auto owners in West Virginia as well as all other states.

Despite the fact that airbags save lives, a defective one can be very scary. Takata has admittedly been guilty of improperly storing chemical propellants in the airbags, and not keeping good quality control records. This caused an inability to pinpoint and locate those products with actual defects.

One major defect is that an airbag will occasionally explode when deployed, sending metal pieces similar to shrapnel into the necks, chests, faces and eyes of consumers. This seems to be caused by the deployment of defective explosives in the airbag propellant mechanisms. Deaths have been reported from severed arteries and victims bleeding to death, usually in minor accidents.

According to a Reuters investigative article, the death and serious injury cases have been settled with the victims quietly so that public scrutiny was not agitated. The Reuters report indicates that Takata in effect allowed its quality control to become lazy and directionless. The distinct causes of each defect can be analyzed, but the true problem may be Takata’s diminished sense of moral obligation to produce a superior and safe product.

When a company gets hugely successful, it can sometimes suffer a loss of moral compass, with devastating results, especially when its products are relied on worldwide for safety and security. The auto defect disasters have been a wake-up call to consumers here in West Virginia and elsewhere. However, the automakers are apparently standing by Takata, perhaps due to the company’s prior excellence in innovating new safety designs. It will be interesting to see if the company reasserts its industry leadership and survives these recent tribulations.

Source: Reuters, SPECIAL REPORT-Deadly airbags backfire on firm that crossed ‘dangerous bridge’, Ben Klayman and Yoko Kubota, Jan. 13, 2014