WASHINGTON -- The recall of some 7.8 million vehicles with faulty Takata airbags that may explode attracted additional federal scrutiny Wednesday, with prosecutors launching a probe into the Japanese supplier and a U.S. House oversight committee calling for a review of the recalls.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan is leading an investigation into whether Takata Corp. mislead regulators about the safety of the airbags, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The investigation is in a preliminary stage and could end with no charges being filed, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Prosecutors are also trying to avoid disrupting the recall process, the paper said.
The House Energy and Commerce committee has asked for a briefing with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration staff about the status of the airbag recalls.
Committee staff also plan to meet with automakers to discuss “supplier issues,” according to a statement from committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.
The committee earlier this year held hearings into General Motors’ ignition switch recalls. Following an investigation, the committee released a scathing report that accused NHTSA of failing to spot the defects despite having ample evidence for years.
On Monday, NHTSA urged owners of vehicles previously recalled for defective Takata airbags to have their airbags replaced. The agency on Tuesday increased the number of affected vehicles to 7.8 million, up from 4.7 million in Monday’s advisory.
“I urge drivers to heed NHTSA’s warning and act immediately to get their vehicles fixed,” Upton said in a statement. “We also need to take a close look at this airbag issue and the timeline and scope of the recalls to ensure that the appropriate steps are being taken to protect drivers and their families.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has also asked for a briefing with NHTSA on the Takata investigation, and has reached out to Honda and other automakers for information, as well, according to her office.
McCaskill chairs the consumer protection subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that has held three hearings related to the GM ignition switch recalls this year.
In a September hearing, McCaskill admonished NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman for the agency’s handling of the GM ignition switch case, saying afterword that she was “troubled by his refusal to take responsibility.”