Takata balks on expanding US airbag recall. 'Disappointing,' regulators say.

Takata Corp has received criticism from US auto safety regulators for its response to an order to expand a recall of its airbags nationwide. At least five deaths have been linked to Takata inflators, which can explode with excessive force and shoot shrapnel inside cars.

Toru Hanai/Reuters/File
A billboard advertisement of Takata Corp in Tokyo. US safety regulators are criticizing the airbag manufacturer's reluctance to issue a nationwide recall of its airbags, which have been linked to five deaths in the US so far.

 U.S. auto safety regulators said Takata Corp's response to an order to expand a recall nationwide was "disappointing," critising the Japanese auto parts supplier for shirking responsibility over its potentially deadly air bags.

Takata, at the center of a global recall of more than 16 million cars in the past six years, had until Tuesday to respond to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) order to expand a regional recall and replace driver-side air bags from across the United States.

Takata has not made its response to NHTSA public, but a spokeswoman in Tokyo said the contents echoed a statement by the company's chief executive on Tuesday. In that statement, Shigehisa Takada left the decision for a nationwide recall up to automakers, and made no mention of whether Takata was admitting that its air bag inflators were defective, as ordered by NHTSA last week.

"Takata shares responsibility for keeping drivers safe, and we believe anything short of a national recall does not live up to that responsibility," NHTSA said in an email to Reuters. The regulator said it would review Takata's response to determine its next steps.

In ordering a nationwide recall last week, NHTSA said it could begin steps to fine Takata up to $7,000 per vehicle not recalled, as well as force a recall. The maximum penalty under current law is $35 million.

At least five deaths have been linked to Takata inflators, which can explode with excessive force and shoot shrapnel inside cars. Takata faces a criminal probe, more than 20 class action lawsuits, and congressional scrutiny over its inflators. The company supplies around a fifth of the world's air bags.

Japanese government officials have expressed concern that Takata's repeated recalls could dent the reputation of the country's auto industry. One official, who asked not to be named, said it would be "disastrous" for Takata not to comply with NHTSA's demand.


In his statement released on Tuesday in the United States, Takada outlined steps aimed at demonstrating Takata's commitment to safety, including forming an independent panel to audit its manufacturing procedures.

Takata has recruited three former U.S. transportation secretaries to help it navigate the growing crisis.

Samuel K. Skinner, a former White House Chief of Staff and U.S. Transportation Secretary, will lead an independent quality panel, while Rodney Slater and Norman Mineta will advise Takata.

A report by the panel headed by Skinner on Takata's manufacturing processes will be made public, Takada said.

He said Takata would take "dramatic actions" to increase output of replacement air bag inflator kits, including working with rivals and examining whether their products can be used safely. "I know we can and must do more," he said.


Takata's announcement comes ahead of a second congressional hearing on Wednesday that will likely focus onTakata's response to NHTSA's order.

Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata's senior vice president for global quality assurance, said in prepared remarks that aphased-in recall should give priority to U.S. regions with higher humidity - believed to be a factor in some air bag ruptures.

Honda North America Executive Vice President Rick Schostek said in his testimony that a national recall would lead to parts shortages, but the Japanese automaker was "seriously considering" it for driver-side air bag inflators.

Toyota North America Vice President Abbas Saadat said in his testimony that the automaker wanted "additional assurances about the integrity and quality of Takata's manufacturing processes."

Toyota and Honda called on Tuesday for independent industry-wide tests of Takata air bag inflators subject to recalls. (Additional reporting by Mari Saito in Tokyo, Paul Lienert and Bernie Woodall in Detroit and Patrick Rucker in Washington; Editing by Karey Van Hall, Chizu Nomiyama, Christian Plumb, Lisa Von Ahn and Ian Geoghegan)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Takata balks on expanding US airbag recall. 'Disappointing,' regulators say.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today