Takata allegedly ignored US employees concerns over faulty airbag inflators

A car fitted with Takata airbags, subject to a huge product recall. Image courtesy of Takata Corp.
A diagram of a car fitted with Takata airbags - image courtesy of Takata.

A new report has claimed that Takata Corporation allegedly ignored its US employees concerns about misleading testing reports on air bags which later became a safety risk due to their tendency to explode and potentially harm passengers.

The Wall Street Journal report outlined practices dating from 2000 to 2010 and highlighted employees concerns that the automotive safety products supplier concealed testing failures and provided erroneous data in reports on some of its air-bag inflators provided to Honda Motor Corporation.

Last week’s Journal report cited ‘internal Takata documents’ that show employees raised concerns about the Japanese company concealing the results of failed compliance tests and providing Honda false reports on its airbag inflators.

The internal documents used as a basis for the Journal report show the company’s US employees raised concerns about Japanese employees manipulating data, particularly on the validation tests conducted to determine whether a product meets the demands of its customers.

The report reveals that documents from November 2000 sent to Honda by US employees in “a group called Inflation Systems Inc.” detail purported “inconsistencies” in a Takata report on airbag inflators sent to Honda in June 2000.

The Wall Street Journal report also highlighted documents from 2005 written by US-based Takata engineer Bob Schubert, in which he explains what he saw as altered information on different Takata inflators.

The report also cited a Takata presentation in May 2010, which revealed “inaccurate reporting of a good ‘safety factor’ measurement to Honda and other alterations”.

The revelations of ignoring safety concerns and manipulating data has proved costly for Takata.

Car companies dump Takata as airbag supplier

The company’s largest customer, Honda, recently announced that it will not use the supplier’s airbag inflators on all future models, citing an investigation into Takata internal documents that suggested the company “misrepresented and manipulated test data.”

Ford, Nissan and Toyota have also joined Honda in stating that they will no longer use certain Takata inflators.

Honda said in statement last week that a third-party audit of Takata test data given to the automaker had begun, and that it will report the results to US regulators.

The revelations of failed compliance tests and providing false reports on its airbag inflators are made to look even worse in light of the events of this year which have brought Takata’s negligence to the forefront.

Takata came under scrutiny earlier this year when its faulty airbag inflators containing ammonium nitrate propellants forced the recall of 34 million vehicles – one of the largest recalls in US history.

The vehicles were recalled due to the potential for exploding shrapnel from defective parts, with the faulty airbags being linked to six deaths and 100 injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fined Takata $70m last month for failing to issue a timely recall for the air bag defect.

Takata is also subject to an additional $130m in fines from the NHTSA if it violates its consent order with the agency or violates US auto safety laws.

Takata has said it will phase out the use of ammonium nitrate in its inflators.