WASHINGTON -- An influential U.S. senator today called for troubled airbag supplier Takata Corp. to establish a fund to compensate victims injured or killed by its ruptured airbags.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., pressed Kevin Kennedy, executive vice president for Takata’s North American affiliate, to establish a fund similar to that created by General Motors in the wake of its ignition switch crisis. Kennedy said he was unable to commit to the fund without first consulting his superiors, but he said he would give the senator an answer in two weeks.
Eight people have died and more than 100 have been injured after their Takata airbag exploded following a crash. After GM initially linked 13 deaths to its defective ignition switches, GM’s death count has since ballooned to at least 117 after it established its fund to compensate crash victims overseen by compensation attorney Kenneth Feinberg.
“My view is that Takata is every bit as responsible for the eight deaths found so far as GM is for the 117 deaths and counting,” Blumenthal said, adding he expected the number of confirmed deaths tied to Takata’s exploding airbags to grow should a fund be created.
Kennedy also agreed that the eight confirmed deaths would likely grow larger should a fund be created “as many of these parts are still in the field."
A day before the hearing, committee Democrats released a report saying the Japanese company may have put profits over safety by halting global safety audits for financial reasons.