Takata Agrees to Airbag Settlement, Recall to Affect Nearly 34M Cars

By Jeff Plungis | May 19, 2015

Takata Corp. has reached an agreement with U.S. regulators who accused the company of failing to cooperate with an investigation into faulty airbags linked to six deaths and the recalls of about 28 million cars worldwide, according to people familiar with the deal.

The U.S. Transportation Department will announce a fine and reveal possible causes of the airbag defects, said the people who asked not to be named because the agreement has yet to be made public. The agreement also includes an expanded recall in the U.S. that will add about 17 million vehicles to the list of those needing repair, according to a Detroit News report.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mark Rosekind, are scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Washington.

The agreement may speed the process of resolving a global auto-safety crisis involving airbag inflators that may deploy with too much force, breaking apart and sending shards of metal and plastic into the passenger compartment of vehicles. Takata, its automaker customers and U.S. regulators have had trouble quickly getting to the root cause of the problem, and millions of customers are still unable to get their cars fixed because of a shortage of replacement parts.

“Takata should have been much more aggressive before now in protecting passengers through a national recall,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat. “In the meantime the Department of Justice should be taking appropriate action to investigate and impose penalties.”

Potential Fine

NHTSA has been pressuring Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and eight other automakers affected by the recalls to speed the repair process and work with other airbag suppliers to obtain parts. The agency also has demanded that Tokyo-based Takata turn over more documents and data from the devices that have been removed from the recalled cars.

NHTSA in February began fining Takata $14,000 a day for not completely answering questions about air-bag inflater production and company efforts to investigate the explosions. It said at the time that most of the 2.4 million pages of documents the company had produced didn’t actually relate to the agency’s specific inquiries.

Of the 28 million vehicles recalled worldwide, about 17 million of those are in the U.S. The settlement with NHTSA would expand the U.S. recall to 33.8 million cars and trucks, according to the Detroit News.

National Recall

One of the main disputes between Takata and NHTSA had been over whether to initiate a national recall for some drivers’ side airbags. The company had said the defect was tied to high humidity, and it supported recalls limited to southern U.S. states with tropical weather.

Since then, all the automakers with cars that have Takata airbag inflators have taken it on themselves to begin national recalls. There have also been recalls for defects in the passenger-side air bags as well.

In addition to Honda and Nissan, Takata’s other affected customers in the U.S. market are units of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Toyota Motor Corp., Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Mazda Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

(With assistance from Jeff Green in Southfield, Michigan and Chris Strohm in Washington.)

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