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4 carmakers agree to air-bag deal

$553M payout for 15 million U.S. vehicles needs court’s nod

Four automakers have agreed to pay $553 million to settle a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for drivers in the United States over losses and other troubles stemming from the recall of faulty Takata air bags.

The settlement -- by Toyota, BMW, Subaru and Mazda -- covers 15.8 million vehicles equipped with rupture-prone air bag inflators.

The agreement, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Miami, is still subject to court approval.

The settlement calls for reimbursing current and former car owners and lessees for costs they incurred for renting or buying replacement vehicles while waiting for those with defective air bags to be fixed. So far the air bags have been replaced in fewer than a third of the affected Toyota and Subaru vehicles and fewer than a fifth of those from BMW and Mazda.

Part of the settlement money will be used to encourage consumers whose cars are under recall to bring them to dealers for repair.

"This agreement achieves our goals of educating consumers about the urgent need to have their recall remedies completed while providing them compensation for their economic losses," Peter Prieto, a partner at the law firm Podhurst Orseck, who served as the lead counsel in the class-action case, said in a statement.

"The low number of recalls to date demonstrates the need for a settlement of this type," he added.

Under the provisionary settlement, Toyota agreed to pay $278.5 million, BMW $131 million, Mazda $75.8 million and Subaru $68.3 million.

Similar economic-loss claims against Honda, Ford and Nissan have yet to be settled.

Air bags developed by Takata can rupture violently, shooting metal shards toward the car's occupants, and were installed in 42 million vehicles that were sold in the United States. They have been linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 180 injuries.

In February, Takata pleaded guilty to fraud charges, acknowledging that it had provided false safety-test data to cover up a defect in its air bags.

Business on 05/19/2017

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