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Takata hid faults - NYT

Question time: More than 11 million cars have been recalled this year due to airbag faults connected to Takata, with The New York Times claiming the Japanese company knew of the danger 10 years ago.

The New York Times claims Takata knew of airbag fault but destroyed evidence

11 Nov 2014

A STORY published by The New York Times claims automotive equipment-maker Takata was aware of possible airbag dangers a decade ago, but ordered the data from tests to be deleted.

However, the airbag maker, which supplies 20 per cent of the world's airbags and has sparked what will potentially become the world's biggest-ever recall, has strongly denied the claims, saying that the New York Times article was "fundamentally inaccurate".

The newspaper said a report from a 2004 incident in the United States in which an airbag had ruptured and caused the death of a driver due to flying metal debris had motivated Takata staff members at the company’s US headquarters to do secret tests outside work hours on airbags retrieved from scrapyards.

The New York Times said two of these former employees had come forward and said that during testing, two of the inflators had cracked, possibly leading to a rupture.

Airbags are inflated with nitrogen gas caused by the ignition of an ammonia nitrate-based propellant packed into a steel canister called the inflator.

The article said the situation was so shocking that engineers had begun to devise a fix in preparation for a recall.

According to The New York Times, the two former staff members said that upon learning of the testing, Takata executives ordered the lab technicians to delete the results and dispose of the airbag inflators.

The newspaper explains the insiders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they came forward due to a concern their old employer was not being upfront about defective airbags.

It was after later tests that the first air-bag related recall took place in 2008.

More than 14 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide with thousands affected in Australia. Locally this includes Honda recalling 33,434 cars Toyota 19,600 and Nissan 25,941.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website the recalls are needed due to a danger of metal fragments being scattered in the event of an airbag inflating with too much force.

The presence of moisture is believed to be a possible cause of the propellant igniting improperly, and car-manufacturers in the US have focused their recalls on owners living in areas of high humidity.

The article also said it had viewed documents that revealed poor quality control and handling of the inflators by workers, citing cases where pallets of the units had been dropped or had become wet during transport.

The New York Times said four deaths and more than 30 injuries have been linked to the problem.

In a statement emailed to various new agencies, the airbag manufacturer said: “Takata takes very seriously the accusations made in this article and we are cooperating and participating fully with the government investigation now underway.

“The company continues to work closely with automakers and federal regulators to address the issues related to airbags and to provide the replacements needed.”

Takata’s statement also called the anonymous allegations made by the former employees “fundamentally inaccurate.”

Following the publication of the story in print and online last week, three US senators are calling for a criminal investigation into the matter.

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