WASHINGTON -- Congressional staffers released internal Takata emails and other documents that they say show Takata manipulated test results on airbag inflators before and after its massive recalls began.
The documents were reviewed by the Senate Commerce Committee’s Democratic minority staffers as part of their investigation into the Takata airbag recalls.
Takata contends that there is “no link” between the instances of data manipulation cited in the documents and the defects that are the subject of recalls, the staffers’ report notes.
Nonetheless, the committee’s staff contends, the documents “reveal a culture within Takata that, at a minimum, did not prioritize the safety of its products -- and perhaps operated with an utter disregard for safety.”
According to the staffers’ report, Takata engineers raised concerns on several occasions with superiors or colleagues about instances of validation testing data being manipulated to align with customer specifications or selectively withheld from Takata customers, but those concerns were dismissed or ignored.
The Commerce Committee staff’s allegations echo those by Takata customers and regulators that the embattled supplier has manipulated inflator testing data.
In November, when the Transportation Department announced a $70 million fine against Takata over the airbag recalls, Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said his agency had “uncovered a pattern by Takata of providing selective, incomplete or inaccurate information” dating back to at least 2009.
Honda Motor Co., once Takata’s largest airbag inflator customer, dropped Takata as a supplier for inflators on new models in November, saying it, too, found evidence suggesting the supplier manipulated and misrepresented test data about certain airbag inflators it provided to Honda.
Takata, in a statement, said it is “deeply sorry” for all fatalities and injuries linked to the ruptured inflators, but said “issues with validation testing” were unrelated to the ruptures.
“As Takata has previously stated, the issues raised in the documents cited in the Senate committee report are entirely inexcusable and will not be tolerated or repeated,” the Japanese supplier said. “Expert analysis, extensive testing, and independent review show that the issues with validation testing of the original phase stabilized ammonium nitrate inflators are not the root cause of the field ruptures that have occurred with Takata inflators, but these issues are totally incompatible with Takata’s engineering standards and protocols.”
Under its consent order with NHTSA, Takata is required to phase-out the production of ammonium nitrate inflators that lack a chemical additive to prevent moisture absorption by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, Takata can continue to produce ammonium nitrate inflators with such an additive, known as a desiccant, to fulfill current contracts indefinitely.
In its report, the committee’s minority staff called on NHTSA to use its powers under the consent order to speed up the 2018 wind-down, and create a wind-down schedule for ammonium nitrate inflators with a desiccant.
It also wants NHTSA to speed up production of non-ammonium nitrate replacement inflators, and said the agency should better coordinate the Takata recalls and better manage announcements about additional recalls and repair availability.