NHTSA Increases Intensity Of Takata Airbag Investigation, Orders Company To Preserve Safety Devices

takata logoFederal regulators continue to put pressure on Takata Corporation to cooperate with a defective airbag investigation started last year. A week after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began fining the company $14,000 per day for failing to turn over documents and answer questions, the agency upgraded the investigation and ordered the company to preserve evidence.

The Wall Street Journal reports that NHTSA upgraded its probe into Takata’s potentially defective airbags – which have been found to spew pieces of shrapnel at passengers and drivers upon deployment – to an engineering analysis.

Regulators say the formal step intensifies the investigation and could help determine whether the company’s failure to quickly notify the agency of possible defects violated federal law or regulations.

NHTSA also issued an order requiring Takata to preserve airbag inflators for use as evidence in the agency’s probe and any subsequent outside lawsuits. By issuing the preservation order NHTSA attempts to ensure they have access to all data related to the safety device’s testing, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx tells the WSJ.

Intensifying the investigation into Takata seems like a natural step for regulator. Last week, NHTSA announced that it would fine Takata $14,000 per day until the company provided specific answers to the agency’s questions.

“We have concluded that Takata is neither being forthcoming with the information that is it legally obligated to supply, nor is it being cooperative in aiding NHTSA’s ongoing investigation of a potentially serious safety defect,” the agency said at the time.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the defective airbags in June 2014 after five automakers – Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda and Chrysler – began recalling millions of vehicles.

In all, the defective Takata airbags have resulted in automakers recalling nearly 25 million vehicles. So far, six deaths and hundreds of injuries have been linked to the defect.

The Japanese parts maker is currently the center of a number of criminal investigations and lawsuits from families of victims.

Regulators Escalate Takata Probe, Issue Order to Preserve Inflaters [The Wall Street Journal]