Nissan Motor Co., BMW of North America and Ford Motor Co. accused Takata Corp. of fraud in a lawsuit seeking to force the airbag manufacturer to cover losses they incur because of its faulty inflators that have been linked to at least 17 deaths worldwide.
The automakers claim the embattled Tokyo-based company withheld information about the inflators, which have caused airbags to rupture and injure people. The carmakers are fighting consumer suits alleging they knew about the flawed devices.
“Ford (and other vehicle manufacturers) would not have purchased these airbag systems from Takata as they were had the true and accurate test data and information been communicated to Ford,” the Dearborn, Michigan-based company said in its court filing. “If Ford had known of the true and accurate information and data, it would have insisted that the problems be resolved prior to installation of the airbags in Ford vehicles or would have refused to purchase them for installation into those vehicles.”
Nissan and BMW made similar arguments in their filings Friday in Miami federal court.
The new claims against Takata come at a precarious time. Kyodo News reported March 1 that Takata may file for bankruptcy after separating healthy business units into a new company. Takata said last month that its steering committee has recommended Key Safety, a U.S. air-bag maker owned by China’s Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp., as its preferred bidder. Finding a new owner is a crucial step in the company’s restructuring.
Last week, attorneys for accident victims and vehicle owners suing Takata alleged in court that the automakers knew about the inflator defect for years before a recall of the airbags began.
Takata pleaded guilty Feb. 27 to criminal charges as part of a $1 billion settlement with U.S. prosecutors. The company agreed in January to pay a $25 million criminal fine and establish a $125 million fund to pay victims and a separate $850 million fund to reimburse automakers for recalls.
When the airbags malfunction, they can send shards of metal at drivers and passengers. The Takata products have been the subject of the biggest product recall in history, expected to cover more than 100 million airbags.
The lawsuits, filed by accident victims and by car owners claiming the defect caused economic losses, were combined before a federal judge in Miami. The automakers brought their fraud claims within that larger case.
The lawsuits are combined in In Re: Takata Airbag Product Liability Litigation, 15-md-02599, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).