Like 18 other automakers, BMW has issued sweeping recalls for vehicles with potentially explosive Takata airbags. Of the 1.78 million airbags BMW has recalled, almost 700,000 (about 40 percent) have yet to be replaced. Automakers are expected to issue new recalls in January 2019 as part of a phased-in recall system put in place to manage the largest recall in automotive history. So far, the airbags have been linked to the deaths of 23 people worldwide and more than 300 confirmed injuries.
The BMW vehicles affected span model years 2000 to 2013. They include:
- 2008-2013 BMW 1 Series
- 2000-2013 BMW 3 Series
- 2001-2003 BMW 5 Series
- 2013-2015 BMW X1
- 2007-2010 BMW X3
- 2001-2003, 2007-2013 BMW X5
- 2008-2014 BMW X6
- 2010-2011 BMW X6 Hybrid
Dangers of Takata Airbags
The recalled airbags contain the chemical compound ammonium nitrate, which is used as a propellant that is housed in a metal canister in the steering wheel or behind the passenger dash. In a crash, the propellant rapidly generates gas that inflates the airbag cushion. But ammonium nitrate, used by Takata as cheap alternative to other more stable airbag chemicals, is volatile even under the best conditions and highly sensitive to moisture and heat which degrades the propellant causing it to generate too much pressure too quickly. The excessive pressure can rupture the canister, spewing metal fragments into the vehicle and occupants. Some Takata airbags, like those in Honda and Acura vehicles made between 2001 and 2003 have an additional manufacturing defect, which lab tests have shown make them more likely to fail and rupture.
BMW was the first automaker to learn of the rupture potential when a driver airbag in one of its vehicles ruptured in 2003 in Switzerland. No one was harmed and Takata concluded the airbag contained too much propellant and the problem was isolated. BMW agreed the problem was limited to that airbag and took no further action. In 2009, two people died when the driver side airbags in their Honda vehicles ruptured – the Hondas had the same type of Takata airbag that ruptured in the BMW in 2003. Nonetheless, BMW did not take any action until 2013, and when it did, the company only recalled passenger side frontal airbags. At that time, BMW stated it was unaware of any incidents involving its vehicles.
BMW finally recalled driver side airbags nationwide in May 2015, after Takata told automakers that all of that particular airbag type needed replacement. By this time, eight people had died from exploding Takata driver side airbags. In its recall notice, BMW claimed it was unaware of any injuries or deaths in its vehicles and never mentioned the 2003 rupture – it was Takata that finally reported the incident in its own Defect Information Report.
Recall System Failures
The millions of vehicles left unrepaired highlight failures of the recall system which include manufacturers’ long delays in initiating the recalls, their use of outdated ownership and address information, and the lack of or delayed replacement part availability.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has admonished many of the manufacturers for not doing enough to make sure airbags are replaced – including BMW. In May 2018, NHTSA sent a letter to 12 major automakers, warning them that they had not met the December 2017 deadline for completing repairs in high-risk, like Florida.
In July 2018, NHTSA publicly urged all automakers involved in the recalls to publicize their plans for replacing all defective airbags on their websites and to be innovative in their efforts to reach owners who were at risk and may not have received the recall information.
To determine whether your vehicle has an unrepaired recall visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and enter your Vehicle Information Number (VIN). If your vehicle has an open recall, make arrangements with your local dealer to have the free repairs done as soon as possible.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has been the victim of a defective airbag, call the Takata airbag recall lawsuit lawyers at Newsome Melton. We are standing by at 888-808-5977 to set up your free consultation.