Takata Seat Belt Buckle

            On May 23, 1995, during "Buckle Up America Week", DOT Secretary Federico Pena and NHTSA Administrator Dr. Ricardo Martinez announced the second largest recall in the 30 year history of the Department of Transportation (DOT), affecting 8,428,402 predominantly Japanese vehicles made between 1986-91 with seat belts manufactured by the Takata Corporation of Japan.  (NHTSA Recall No. 95V-103.) In addition to the recalls, many of the individual Japanese automobile manufacturers agreed to issue life warranties for seatbelts in their vehicles.
            The recall was prompted by an investigation (PE94-052) conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Takata-equipped Honda vehicles, where their owners complained of seat belt buckles either failing to latch, latching and releasing automatically, or releasing in accidents. The Honda investigation revealed that Takata seat belts were not limited only to Honda vehicles, but to other Japanese imports as well. NHTSA opened up a second investigation on Takata seatbelts broadly  (EA94-036) as well as individual investigations on the vehicle manufacturers using Takata seat belts to determine the magnitude of the defect.
            The Takata investigation was only limited to the front seat belt buckles and to the 52X and A7X models. Through investigation, it was determined that a total of 11 manufacturers are effected by the investigation. Japanese models sold in the United States by American Honda Motor Co., Isuzu Motors of America Inc., Mazda Motor of America Inc., Nissan North America, Daihatsu Motor Co., American , Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc. and Subaru of America Inc. were also with the seat belt buckles. Moreover, Chrysler, General Motors and Ford all had various models manufactured by Japanese companies with the seat belt buckle, but sold under American names such as the Dodge Stealth and the Go series (except Prizm) under General Motors. Ford has vehicles such as the Probe manufactured by Mazda on its' MX-6 platform and the Festiva made by Kia in South Korea, but engineered by Mazda that have the seat belts. However, unlike Chrysler and General Motors, Ford did not admit that their seat belts could be defective.
            The number of vehicle models affected by the recall are as follows:
  
Manufacturer                                    Number of      NHTSA Recall
  Year/Make/Model                           Vehicles    Investigation

CHRYSLER                                           920,000     Recall 95V-103003                      
  1986-91 Dodge Colt                                            PE94-093
  1986-89 Conquest       
  1990-91 Dodge Laser
  1990-91 Eagle Talon    
  1987-89 Dodge Raider   
  1986-91 Dodge Ram, Ram 50 
  1991 Dodge Stealth
  1989-91 Eagle Summit 

FORD                                         265,000         Recall 95V-103011
  1988-91 Ford Festiva                                          PE95-013
  1987-89 Mercury Tracer

GENERAL MOTORS                   466,902         Recall 95V-103007                       
  1989-91 Go Metro                                              EA95-014                                
  1990-91 Go Storm                                         PE94-092                               
  1989-91 Go Tracker                                                                              

HONDA                                                3,703,814 Recall 95V-103001 
  1986-91 Honda Civic                                           EA94-035
  1986-91 Honda Prelude                                      PE94-052
  1986-91 Acura Integra     
  1986-90 Acura Legend     
  1991 Acura SX

ISUZU                                           89,902        Recall 95V-103009 
   1990-91 Isuzu Impulse                                       EA95-009  
   1990-91  Isuzu Pickup                                        PE94-085 
   1991  Isuzu Rodeo
   1991 Stylus    

MAZDA                                                  360,433   Recall 95V-103005
  1988-89 Mazda 323                                      EA95-005
  1988-89 Mazda 323 Wagon                         PE94-081
  1988-91 Mazda 929
  1988-89 Mazda MX-6
  1988-91 Mazda MPV

MITSUBISHI                             658,000           Recall 95V-103004
  1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT                                     EA95-004
  1986-88 Mitsubishi Cordia                                 PE94-080
  1990-91 Mitsubishi Eclipse
  1986-87 Mitsubishi Galant
  1986-91 Mitsubishi Mirage
  1986-91 Mitsubishi Montero
  1986-91 Mitsubishi Pickup
  1988-90 Mitsubishi Sigma 
  1986 Mitsubishi Starion
  1987-90 Mitsubishi Van/Wagon

NISSAN                                                2,012,472  Recall 95V103002                        
   1990-91 Infiniti Q45, M30                           EA95-007                                
  1987-88 Nissan 200SX                                         PE94-083                               
  1989-91 Nissan 240SX  
  1988-91 Nissan Pathfinder  
  1987-91 Nissan Sentra        
  1988-91 Nissan Truck (D21)
  1987-90 Nissan Van (C22)

SUBARU                                                 101,005   Recall 95V-103006
  1987-91 Subaru Justy                                          EA95-008  
  1988-90 Subaru Loyale                                       PE94-084   

SUZUKI                                                  115,874   Recall 95V103008
  1988-91 Suzuki Samari                                       EA95-006
  1989-91 Suzuki Sidekick                                      PE94-082
  1989-91 Suzuki Swift

TOTAL:                                       8,700,917


 

* Not included in recall, but contain Takata seatbelts                                              

            Some Japanese auto manufacturers, asserted that the reason for the failure of the seat belts is not due to design, but the lifestyle of the user, i.e. contaminants such as water and soft drinks getting in to the button mechanism were the cause of the failure. The nine month investigation by NHTSA concluded that the cause of the defect was that the buckles were made of ABS plastic. Through exposure to ultraviolet light over a period of time, the plastic became brittle and pieces fell off, causing a jamming of the release button mechanism.
            The manufacturers have agreed to conduct a voluntary recall. The completion rates for the Takata recall did not go well. Two years after Takata announced its recall of defective front seat belts, most of the vehicles involved were still awaiting repair. In a 1997 press release, NHTSA expressed concern about the low recall rate. Only 18% of the 8.9 million cars and trucks with the Takata belt buckle had been repaired.
            In addition, NHTSA assessed a $50,000 civil penalty against both Honda and Takata for failing to notify the agency about the seat belt defect in a timely manner. Honda was fined because NHTSA believed the company knew about the hazard at least five years before the recall, but never reported the problem to NHTSA nor offered to conduct a voluntary recall.   The following is a summary of the action taken by each manufacturer.
            CHRYSLER: Chrysler agreed to replace any buckles whether or not they are broken. A lifetime warranty applies to Chrysler automobiles for any seat belt malfunction that is not the result of an accident or user abuse.
            DAIHATSU: Daihatsu will replace both front seatbelt buckle assemblies on 1990 and 1991 Daihatsu vehicles with assemblies that have release buttons made of POM plastic rather than ABS plastic.
            FORD: Ford agreed to inspect and replace any damaged front seat belt buckle assemblies manufactured by Takata. Buckles with a certain date code will be fitted with a protective guide. If either or both release buttons are cracked, broken or do not operate properly, both buckle assemblies will be replaced. Ford will extend a lifetime warranty covering Takata seatbelt malfunction.
            GENERAL MOTORS: GM agreed to replace the release button with spring and install a new buckle housing for all belt buckles. However any buckle assemblies which do not function properly will be replaced.
            HONDA: Honda agreed to replace any damaged buckles or those buckles which fail to operate safely free of charge. If the front buckle assembly is in good condition, Honda will install a "Seat Belt Buckle Guide." A lifetime warranty applies to Honda automobiles for any seat belt malfunction that is not the result of an accident or user abuse.
            ISUZU: Isuzu agreed to repair or replace all broken buckles and to modify undamaged buckles. On the Impulse and Stylus the dealer will install the "Takata Button kit" unless chips or dirt require heavy cleaning in which case the seat belt assembly will be replaced. On the Rodeo and Pickup Truck the dealer will install two "Takata Guide Plates" for both the driver and passenger seats. If a button is cracked or chipped a button will be installed. The seat belt assembly will be replaced only if the cracked button chips or dirt in the buckle would require heavy cleaning work.
            MAZDA: Mazda agreed to replace any broken or damaged front seat belt assemblies with modified assemblies. If there was no sign of damage Mazda agreed to modify the seat belt assembly by installing a "Seat Belt buckle Guide" to prevent future breakage. A lifetime warranty will cover all components of the front seat belt assemblies manufactured by Takata.
            MITSUBISHI: Mitsubishi agreed to replace any damaged buckles or those buckles which fail to operate safely. If the buckle shows no sign of damage owners will receive notification advising them to schedule an appointment with their dealer to have a "repair kit" installed. A lifetime warranty applies to Mitsubishi automobiles for any seat belt malfunction.
            NISSAN: Nissan agreed to replace any buckles whether or not they are broken. The replacement button will be made of POM plastic. A lifetime warranty applies to Nissan automobiles (beginning in the 1989 model year).
            SUBARU: Subaru agreed to replace the seat belt buckle assembly where the buckle is damaged. If there was no sign of buckle damage Subaru agreed to modify the seat belt assembly by installing a "Seat Belt Buckle Guide" to prevent future breakage. Subaru agreed to extend a lifetime warranty to all components of the front seat belt assemblies manufactured by Takata.
            SUZUKI: Suzuki agreed to replace the red release button in all vehicles with the defective seat belt buckle. A lifetime warranty applies to Suzuki automobiles for any seat belt malfunction.