Tags: takata | air bag | fine | auto recall

Japan's Takata Given Month to Answer Air Bag Queries as US Fine Looms

Friday, 31 October 2014 10:56 AM

Takata Corp. is being given one month to answer 36 questions from U.S. regulators that may shed light on what led to the recalls of millions of air bags that may inflate with too much force and injure a car’s occupants.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the auto-parts maker must respond by Dec. 1, or face a $35 million fine. The agency is seeking information on quality control at a factory, the use of contaminated or improperly formulated propellant and a complete accounting of deaths and injuries, according to the order.

“We are compelling Takata to produce documents and answer questions under oath relevant to our ongoing investigation into defective air bags they have produced,” David Friedman, NHTSA’s deputy administrator, said in a statement.

NHTSA is following a strategy it employed with General Motors Co. earlier this year by using all of its legal powers to find out what Takata knew about a defect that lingered for years and has so far been tied to at least four deaths. In both the GM and air-bag cases, companies ordered recalls for essentially the same problem for years over a widening range of vehicles amid increasing lawsuits and reports of deaths, said Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

“Those are all the warning signs in my mind,” Brauer said in an interview. “At some point, somebody’s going to see all of that.”

‘Defectos y Defectos!!!’

Takata was already scheduled to meet with NHTSA for the first time since the agency demanded weekly updates on the company’s capacity to produce replacement parts.

A Takata spokesman, Alby Berman, said the company is fully cooperating with NHTSA and is working to meet the agency’s requests.

One of the questions NHTSA posed in the order involves allegations from employees and contractors, including a March 2011 e-mail with “Defectos y defectos y defectos!!!” in the subject line. The Tokyo-based parts maker has a plant in Mexico.

The e-mail warned that “a part that is not welded = one life less, which shows we are not fulfilling the mission,” according to an English translation, NHTSA said.

“We expect Takata’s full cooperation as we work to keep the American public safe,” Friedman said.

Replacement Parts

The agency asked Takata and 10 automakers, including Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., to speed up repairs on recalled vehicles in separate letters Oct. 29.

It asked for details about how the companies are reaching the 7.8 million affected consumers, and what is being done for people who are afraid to drive their cars.

Separately, the Center for Auto Safety sent NHTSA a letter yesterday questioning whether it’s been verified that Takata air bags used as replacements in recalls so far are safe.

The Washington-based consumer watchdog noted that one of the cars involved in a fatal crash in Orlando, Florida should have been repaired under a 2011 recall. If that repair were complete, it would have been using a later version of an air bag made in 2010 or 2011, the center said.

NHTSA should expand its investigation to look at all Takata air-bag modules manufactured through 2011, the center’s executive director, Clarence Ditlow said.

It’s not known whether the Orlando car had been repaired under the recall.

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Takata Corp. is being given one month to answer 36 questions from U.S. regulators that may shed light on what led to the recalls of millions of air bags that may inflate with too much force and injure a car's occupants.
takata, air bag, fine, auto recall
Friday, 31 October 2014 10:56 AM
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