DETROIT—U.S. safety regulators are ordering Japanese auto supplier Takata Corp. to provide more information about air bags that can explode and shoot shrapnel toward drivers and passengers.
The order sent October 30 makes 36 separate requests for information on production mistakes, lawsuit settlements and reports of deaths or injuries that the Tokyo-based company has received. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also wants to know how many replacement parts Takata can make each day and what it has discussed with automakers and competitors.
Takata has until Dec. 1 to turn in the information or it could face fines of $7,000 per day. A Takata spokesman said the company is co-operating and will work to meet the agency’s requests.
Ten automakers have recalled nearly 8 million vehicles in the U.S.—and 12 million worldwide—equipped with potentially faulty Takata air bag inflators. Safety advocates say the problem has caused four deaths in the U.S.
Honda has been hit hardest, with about 5 million cars called back to repair their air bags. Other affected automakers include Nissan, Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Toyota, BMW and General Motors. Lawmakers say that 30 million cars with potentially faulty Takata air bags are driving on U.S. roads.
Takata, the world’s second-largest air bag maker with 22 per cent of the market, has been plagued by problems with its air bags since at least 2001. That year, Japanese automaker Isuzu reported an exploding air bag in the Isuzu Rodeo and Honda Passport, and quietly recalled three affected vehicles, according to a class action lawsuit against Takata and automakers that was filed this week in Florida.
Takata has given various explanations for the issue, including humid conditions at its factory in Mexico; improper welds; trouble with stamping equipment; and an improper amount of generant, which produces the gas that makes air bags inflate.
The latest order is similar to one regulators sent to GM in March seeking more information about its ignition switch recalls. That order asked 107 questions and gave GM a month to submit photos, memos, electronic communications and engineering drawings.
GM missed the deadline and was fined $7,000 per day for a total of $420,000 until it finally submitted all the information in June.