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Honda to pay $96.5 million in Takata airbag settlement

Japanese automaker Honda has agreed to pay $96.5 million to settle a probe centered on defective airbags in some of its vehicles. The lawsuits came from attorneys general in 46 states, three U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. 

The settlement concludes an investigation into Honda's alleged failure to inform regulators and consumers of a risk of rupture in the frontal airbag systems of some of its vehicles. The airbag systems, designed and made by Takata Corp., could cause metal fragments to fly toward passengers if ruptured. At least 14 people have died in the U.S. from ruptured Takata airbags and 200 have been injured, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday.

James and other state prosecutors said they're happy that Honda's settlement includes the implementation of new safety protocols to protect drivers and passengers. Honda has agreed to upgrade its airbag safety procedures in a way that reduces the risk of ruptures.

"This settlement with Honda makes clear that companies, large and small, will face serious consequences when they put profits over protecting the safety of their customers," Washington, D.C.'s attorney general Karl Racine said in a statement Tuesday. 

Honda has recalled approximately 12.9 million Honda and Acura vehicles equipped with the defective inflators. The company said in a prepared statement that it will notify states of any new defective airbags going forward. Honda is the parent company of the Acura brand.

"The now-bankrupt airbag inflator supplier, Takata, pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal criminal fraud charges for deceiving Honda and other automakers about the safety of its airbags," Honda said. "Under the terms of these civil settlements, Honda does not acknowledge any wrongdoing."

Of the $96.5 million settlement, roughly $1 million will go to the National Association of Attorneys General while another $11.3 million will go to the state of California. The remaining $84 million will settle each jurisdiction's lawsuit. 

Attorneys general have been investigating Honda since December 2015. The following year, Takata airbags became the largest auto part recall in U.S. history. Researchers determined that moisture was a major factor in the air bag ruptures. Cars with a particular Takata air bag design were prone to water seeping in, with vehicles operating in a humid environment deemed at most risk, they found.

An update on Takata's auto safety recall 02:24

Many of the airbag victims were driving a Honda Accord, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Under a separate class-action settlement, Honda customers are entitled to restitution for damages or injuries from defective airbags.

Owners of potentially affected 2001-2016 Honda and Acura vehicles can check the recall status online or by phone at 1-888-234-2138. Repairs are free, Honda said, and free loaner vehicles are available to owners during the repair. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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