U.S. Senate alleges Takata chose profit over safety


A report released by a group of U.S. senators Monday offered damning assertions that airbag maker Takata Corp. may have placed profit over safety in recent years by ceasing safety audits in factories.

Democratic members of the Senate Commerce Committee in its report Danger Behind the Wheel: The Takata Airbag Crisis and How to Fix Our Broken Auto Recall Process say that company emails show global audits were stopped from 2009 to 2011 for financial reasons.

“The more evidence we see, the more it paints a troubling picture of a manufacturer that lacked concern,” Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the committee's ranking Democrat, said in a statement.

The 45-page report came a day before a hearing on the Takata recall crises in Washington.

Faulty Takata air bags have become one of the history’s largest vehicle recalls with numbers stretching as high as 36 million vehicles worldwide – though recent news reports show the number of affected units could be dramatically lower as units with two front air bags may have been counted twice.

At issue is the inflators in certain air bags. Investigations have shown that faulty air bags can explode with too much force, sending metal shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

U.S. Senate numbers show the problem has caused at least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries over a 10 year period.

“Takata cannot identify a root cause of these ruptures,” the report reads. “Yet, Takata is currently producing hundreds of thousands of replacement inflators each month that may not completely eliminate the risk of airbag rupture.”

Transport Canada said recently it had not received any complaints from Canadians alleging abnormal deployment of airbags supplied by Takata and is not aware of any related incidents in Canada.

Auto manufacturers have also confirmed that no abnormal deployments of airbags supplied by Takata have occurred in Canada.

Still, a wide recall across several automakers in Canada started in May.

In response to the strong assertions by members of the Senate, Takata says it never discontinued factory safety audits and noted the report reviewed emails out of context. It adds that an independent quality assurance panel now reviews manufacturing processes.