Four auto makers settle claims over Takata inflators for $553 million

Four carmakers today agreed to pay $553m (£425.6m) to settle a U.S. class-action lawsuit over potentially defective Takata airbags inflators.

The case is In re: Takata Airbag Product Liability Litigation, 15-md-02599, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).

Takata airbag inflators have been linked to at least 17 deaths and more than 180 injuries worldwide.

The settlement highlights the knock-on effect of the recalls, which began around 2008 and covers around 100 million inflators around the world used in vehicles made by 19 automakers.

The problem touched off the largest automotive recall in US history involving 42 million vehicles.

The settlement calls for reimbursing current and former auto owners and lessees for costs they incurred for renting or buying replacement vehicles while waiting for those with defective air bags to be fixed.

The auto makers that are part of Thursday's deal have agreed to regularly contact consumers to encourage them to participate in the settlement and get vehicles repaired, through phone calls, mail, social media, online alerts and other methods. As of April 28, only 32 percent of Toyota owners, 31 percent of Subaru owners, 18 percent of Mazda owners and 16 percent of BMW owners had completed the repairs, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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The size, scope and complexity of the Takata airbag recalls, as well as the age of some of the involved vehicles, have impacted recall remedy completion rates.

According to Toyota, the agreement will reimburse plaintiffs for travel costs while their cars are repaired.

Of the $553 million, automakers will use about $50 million to provide rental cars.

More than 14 million of the air bags have been repaired in the US, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The settlements are aimed at pushing completion rates for recalls, Peter Prieto, a plaintiffs' lawyer, said in a statement. Under the terms of the settlements, BMW of North America LLC will pay $131 million, Subaru of America Inc. will pay $68,262,257 and Mazda North American Operations agreed to pay $75,805,050.

The settlement comes in the wake of mass recalls of airbags produced by Japanese company Takata.

In January, Takata agreed to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing and to pay $1 billion to resolve a federal investigation into its inflators.

  • Desiree Holland