Plaintiffs argue BMW, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota were aware of dangerous inflator ruptures for years before recalls were issued.

Takata has pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the airbag inflator recalls, while a group of five major automakers now faces a lawsuit over alleged wrongdoing in the crisis.

Most attention so far has focused on Takata's alleged coverup in the years leading up to the first recalls, but some attorneys now argue that BMW, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota are "far from innocent," according to filings cited by The Detroit News.

"The automotive defendants were aware that rupture after rupture, both during testing and in the field, confirmed how dangerous and defective Takata's air bags were," the lawsuit argues.

After agreeing to pay a $1 billion fine last month, Takata has now submitted its guilty plea for wire-fraud charges handed down by the US Department of Justice. The company allegedly falsified test data to conceal the problem as the first signs of trouble emerged.

Affecting vehicles dating back to the 2001 model year, the recall centers around airbag inflators powered by ammonium nitrate. When exposed to moisture in the air over years, the propellant can degrade and rupture the metal inflator canister if it ignites with too much pressure.

Honda was the first automaker to issue a recall for the defect in 2008, initially limiting the campaign to just a few thousand older Accords and Civics. The recalls have since expanded to more than 30 million vehicles.

Plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit claim the have internal documents supporting their allegation that automakers were aware of the failures but declined to act due to cost concerns.