The massive recall of vehicles with airbags installed by the Japanese firm Takata continues to worsen. Takata is, of course, the company responsible for designing and manufacturing the inflators in the airbags which, due to a design defect, can explode after an accident and spray vehicle occupants with shrapnel-like shards of plastic and metal. Lawmakers have called for a U.S. criminal investigation into the Japanese auto supplier, due to the fact that in in 2004 Takata Corp. destroyed results of airbag tests conducted in secret.
In 2004, after a Honda Accord’s inflator exploded in an accident, injuring the driver, Takata tested around 50 airbag inflators in secret. After testing these airbags, it was discovered that two of the airbags cracked during the tests, a condition that can lead to rupture. Yet, instead of alerting federal safety regulators to the possible danger and the risks modeled by the inflators, Takata executives ordered the lab technicians to delete and dispose of the testing data.
The firm acknowledged that it did tests a decade ago, yet they said the tests were unrelated to the airbag crisis.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward Markey, D-Mass, said that “Reports that Takata concealed and destroyed test results revealing fatal air bag defects, along with other evidence that the company was aware of these deadly problems, clearly require a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.” “If the reports are true, the company must be held accountable for the horrific deaths and injuries that its wrongdoing caused.”
More than 14 million vehicles from 11 automakers, including more than 5 million from Honda, have been recalled since 2013 due to the deadly Takata airbag inflators.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a safety advocate and chairman of the Senate’s panel on consumer protection stated, “If these reports are true, they show a company more concerned with profits than the lives of consumers.”