Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler June 11, 2015

The airbag recall of around 17 million cars, SUVs and pickups has led to lower prices for some vehicles, including those manufactured by Honda, GMC and Ford, reports a new study.

Auto business research firm iSeeCars.com analyzed nearly 20 million used vehicles after the recall of defective Takata airbags. Some of the vehicles had been part of the airbag recall, and others had not.

The analysis showed that, over a period of time, prices decreased for some models affected by the recall by as much as 3½ times more than models which weren’t affected.

It’s not indicated if the vehicles which were part of the recall were identifiable as having had airbag replacements — or not — when they were sold as used vehicles. But it can be construed that even the chance that they contained defective airbags may have deterred some sales by wary buyers who had fears of a car accident injury from an airbag.

In the study, vehicle prices were compared between pre-recall months of October of 2013 through February of 2014 and post-recall months of October of 2014 through February of 2015.

The comparison found a 3½ times greater price decrease in Mazda RX-8 vehicles from model years 2004-2008 — which were part of the recall — compared to similar models which had not been part of the recall.

The Mazda’s decrease differential amounted to around $763 more than the price drops over time for similar vehicles which were not part of the Takata recall.

Significantly Lower Prices

Other used vehicles which had significantly lower prices included the Dodge Dakota pickup truck from model years 2005-2008. Its price reduction for the period being studied was 1⅘ times more than for comparable pickups which were not part of the Takata airbag recall.

Another pickup truck which had a price drop attributable to the recall was the Toyota Tundra from model years 2003-2005. Its price reduction was 1½ times more than that of comparable pickups that were not recalled.

Besides the Mazda RX-8, other cars affected by price drops included the BMW 3 Series of convertibles and coupes from model years 2000-2006.

Between the two time periods of the study, BMW 3 Series vehicles dropped in price by 13.4%.

Used Infiniti FX35/45 vehicles from the 2003-2005 model years lowered in price 2⅗ times more than comparable vehicles between the studied periods, amounting to a $1,131 price decrease.

Takata airbag recalls have been made by 10 different U.S. automakers — but not by the Japanese airbag manufacturer itself — since it was determined that defective front-seat airbags could inflate with too much force when triggered by an impact. Such explosive force could send shrapnel hurling through the interior of a vehicle, injuring or killing occupants.

Defective Takata Airbags

Defective Takata airbags have been found on both the driver’s side and passenger’s side of vehicles’ front seats. They were placed in various vehicles between the model years of 2002 and 2008.

At first it was believed the defect was due expressly to higher humidity of certain areas. Such humidity could cause the airbags’ propellant to deteriorate, thus creating more internal pressure in the inflator, which could make its housing rupture in a crash. Such rupturing could send fragments of metal through the vehicle.

But since many vehicles travel from state to state, initial recalls aimed at high-humidity states such as Texas, Louisiana and Florida along the Gulf of Mexico coast were expanded to include all vehicles, regardless of their point of purchase.

At least five deaths and over 100 injuries have been connected to defective Takata airbags, whose metal shards have been known to puncture the neck and face of drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is active in supporting the airbag recall. But federal authorities also are quick to point out — as has the U.S. Department of Transportation — that an estimated 37,000 lives were saved by frontal airbags in the 25-year period from 1987-2012.

Again, the mere suspicion of a defective airbag may be enough to dissuade some potential buyers from purchasing such vehicles, and the decreased demand may have contributed to greater price drops compared to similar vehicles which were not part of the recall.

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