NHTSA Chief Says Takata More “Forthcoming” With Investigation, Senators Send Letter Urging Cooperation

takataA week after Japanese auto parts maker Takata said it would double its production of replacement airbags and three weeks after U.S. federal regulators began imposing a $14,000 per day fine against the company, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the company is being more forthcoming with information related to an investigation into millions of defective airbags.

Speaking during a portion of the Consumer Federation of America Assembly in D.C. on Friday, Mark Rosekind, the new chief of NHTSA, revealed that Takata has started to be more cooperative about documents involving their products.

“They’re starting to become forthcoming,” Rosekind said. “My understanding is that yesterday, things started changing around.”

While Rosekind didn’t elaborate on what the company had done to be more forthcoming, he said that additional information about the matter would be available in the next several days.

NHTSA imposed the $14,000 per day fine on the parts maker after, Rosekind says, the company handed over more than 2.4 million pages without giving indication where specific information about the airbag inflator could be found.

The NHTSA opened an investigation into the defective airbags – which have been found to spew pieces of shrapnel at passengers and drivers upon deployment – in June 2014 after Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda and Chrysler began recalling millions of vehicles.

Rosekind’s statements on Takata and the federal investigation into the company’s defective airbag parts comes a day after Florida Senator Bill Nelson gave an update about a senate committee’s ongoing investigation into the company during a speech on the Senate floor.

Nelson told his colleagues that so far only two million of the 17 million vehicles recalled for the defect have been fixed.

“People are driving around with a lethal bomb in their steering wheel, and if it’s defective and it goes off, they are filled with shrapnel,” Nelson said. “That has killed five people; that’s documented. In this country, it’s killed five people. Nobody ought to be driving, therefore, a car for months when, in fact, they have a known defect that can seriously kill them.”

Nelson went on to say that he and South Dakota Senator John Thune, committee chair for the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter [PDF] to Takata Chairman and CEO Shigehisa Takada saying requests for information from the company hadn’t been fully complied with.

The senators sought information from as far back as 2011, including emails from Takata supervisors that may have included warnings about a possible airbag defect.

Several months ago, reports began to surface showing that Takata – which uses an unusual chemical explosive in its airbags – was aware of issues with deployment for years before recalls began.

Since then the auto parts maker has become the center of a number of criminal investigations and lawsuits from families of victims.

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