Senators Question Takata’s Ability To Complete Recall Replacement Amid Fines, Lost Customers

takataWith Japanese auto parts maker Takata facing a $70 million fine from federal regulators, and car manufacturers ditching the company’s airbags, lawmakers urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure the company is able to complete the repairs to millions of vehicles in the event it files for bankruptcy. 

Senators Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, and Edward Markey, of Massachusetts sought regulatory guidance on how to hold Takata accountable if its U.S. subsidiary goes bankrupt, Reuters reports.

The senators, who have previously called for tougher action against the Japanese parts maker for its deadly, shrapnel-shooting airbags, asked NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind how the government can assure that replacement inflators are available to U.S. car owners and how costs of the recall and penalties would be handled if the company files for bankruptcy.

“We have concerns about Takata’s financial solvency, which is now at risk … and that as a result, consumers could be left with defective airbags that no one will be forced to fix,” the senators said in a letter to NHTSA.

In the past week, Takata was hit with a $70 million penalty from NHTSA related to its failure to properly alert regulators to airbag issues.

The company has agreed to phase out the use of ammonium nitrate in its inflators by 2018 and faces an additional $130 million fine if it doesn’t comply with NHTSA orders or if new violations are found.

In the days since the fine was announced, Honda – which made up about 10% of the part maker’s global sales – said it would discontinue using Takata’s airbag inflators in any new models under development and accused the supplier of manipulating test data.

The carmaker said in a statement that it was “deeply troubled” by evidence that suggested Takata “misrepresented and manipulated test data for certain airbag inflators.”

Following Honda’s move, other automakers, including Fuji and Mitsubishi, announced they were considering dropping the parts maker.

On Friday, Toyota announced it would also stop using Takata’s ammonium nitrate airbags in its vehicles, noting that it was placing “top priority on ensuring the safety and confidence of our customers.”

Then over the weekend, Nissan announced it would follow suit and stop using the potentially dangerous airbags.

“These developments raise the concern that these liabilities could overwhelm the company and lead Takata Corporation to bankrupt its U.S. subsidiary,” the senators wrote in the letter Monday.

U.S. senators seek to ensure Takata recall is completed [Reuters]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.