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Hawaii accuses Ford, Nissan and Toyota of selling dangerous vehicles in the state for 10 years.

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Hawaii Sues Ford, Nissan and Toyota Over Takata Airbags
Hawaii accuses Ford, Nissan and Toyota of selling dangerous vehicles in the state for 10 years.

— Hawaii has filed a lawsuit against Ford, Nissan and Toyota for marketing and selling vehicles equipped with deadly Takata airbags.

Filed by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection, the lawsuit alleges the automakers should have known for more than 10 years the Takata airbags could explode and cause injuries and death.

Prosecutors allege the automakers used Takata airbags to save money because the airbags use ammonium nitrate, the cheap explosive chemical that has caused the airbags to explode.

According to the lawsuit, ammonium nitrate is typically used for only specific situations such as demolition, mining and to send rockets into space. The volatile substance is dangerous in vehicles when affected by age, heat and humidity, even more so if the ammonium nitrate doesn't have a drying agent added to the mix.

The heat and humidity affects a location such as Hawaii and is the primary reason the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration listed the state as a priority for airbag replacements. Because age is a factor in the airbag explosions, Hawaii knows the longer the vehicles remain unfixed and on the roads, the greater the chance of disastrous results.

Hawaii accuses Ford, Nissan and Toyota of being deceptive in selling vehicles with the dangerous airbags and concealing those dangers from regulators and the public. According to federal safety regulators, the affected automakers have repaired less than a third of the recalled airbags.

According to the lawsuit, demand for replacement airbags and inflators has overwhelmed companies and created long delays in repairs, not to mention many replacement airbags use the problematic ammonium nitrate. Those airbags will eventually need to be replaced again.

Hawaii says about 30,000 Ford, Nissan and Toyota customers are affected by the airbags, not including vehicles that already had temporary airbag replacements. The Hawaii lawsuit wants restitution for car buyers, disgorgement of the companies’ profits from affected vehicles in addition to maximum civil penalties allowed by law of $10,000 per violation.

Hawaii has already sued Honda and Takata for manufacturing and selling vehicles in the state with defective airbags, a lawsuit that continues after a motion by Takata to dismiss the case was rejected by the judge.