PhotoFour automakers have agreed to pay $553 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of owners of 16 million vehicles that were recalled because they contained potentially defective Takata airbag inflators.

The inflators can explode with excessive force and spew small shards of metal into the passenger compartment, injuring or killing occupants. At least 16 deaths and more than 180 injuries have been blamed on the inflators worldwide.

Toyota is paying the biggest share of the settlement, $278 million, followed by BMW, Mazda, and Subaru. The companies said they settled because of the scope and severity of the recall, but they did not admit fault. Takata itself was not a party in the case, and other automakers still face similar suits. 

The settlement includes an outreach program to contact owners; compensation for consumers' economic losses including out-of-pocket expenses; rental cars for some owners; and a customer support program for repairs and adjustments, including an extended warranty.

Largest recall ever

It's just one chapter in the massive recall -- the largest ever -- that began around 2008 and which covers about 100 million inflators around the world used in vehicles made by 19 automakers.

Automakers have so far recalled -- but not necessarily replaced -- 46 million Takata inflators in 29 million cars in the United States. By 2019, the total is expected to approach 70 million inflators in 42 million cars. 

In January, Takata agreed to plead guilty to U.S. charges of criminal wrongdoing and to pay $1 billion to resolve a federal investigation into its inflators. The majority of the air bag-related fatalities and injuries have occurred in the United States.


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