What Happens When You Really Get Quality Wrong - Case Study: Takata Airbags

Posted by Craig Thornton

Air Bags Recalled for the Second Time in Australia

In 2013, Takata airbags were at the centre of the most infamous car recall in historyThis worldwide recall was across 12 vehicle brands for airbags that are a fatal threat to drivers and passengers.

To date, over 100 million vehicles have been recalled due to faulty airbags.

Takata knew of the airbag defects as early as 2000, but the company went to great lengths to cover up the dangers. They declared bankruptcy June 2017. 

This is what can happen when you maximise profits at all costs.


Unfortunately the bad news has got even worse!

Through an investigation by Australian consumer group Choice, a number of car manufacturers have installed faulty airbag devices into recalled vehicles.  These car manufacturers include BMW, Lexus, Mazda and Subaru.  Vehicles will have to be refitted again!

In Australia more than two thirds of the 2.1 million cars recalled have not had their faulty airbags replaced.

Here is a list of vehicles in Australia affected by the recall

As a Quality Professional, this case study highlights what can go wrong if you get "quality" wrong.  

From the outside looking in it appears Takata allegedly broke some core quality principles:

  1. They deliberately hid information from the authorities.
  2. Poor design - in one case Ford allegedly overrode objections and advice from their own employees that the airbags were faulty
  3. Poor (or lack) of testing
  4. Inadequate quality records - lack of traceability of vehicles
  5. Poor management of the recall
  6. Poor quality replacement parts
  7. Lack of communication all the way though the supply chain
  8. Prioritised profit over quality

One other point: Takata was ISO 9001 certified.  


Learning From Takata:

So, what can you do for your business to ensure you are prepared for a product recall?  You should sit down and answer these questions:

  • Can I trace my product through the supply chain?
  • Do I hold enough quality records to do a good recall?
  • Can I recover the records easily?
  • Do I test my recall procedures regularly?
  • How much will a recall cost us?
  • How much will a recall hurt my business reputation?

Do a report and present your results to top management and even to the Board.

Quality always comes under pressure when Boards want more profit.  The "what can we get away with before the customer complains?" can become prevalent.   This case study is a perfect reminder of what can happen when you get quality wrong.



  1. Study this case study in detail - do your research and learn from the mistakes made by Takata.
  2. Take the lessons and implement them in your business.
  3. Review your recall procedures
  4. Know your failure costs
  5. Never rest on your laurels


Tags: Product Recall, Takata