Panel: Takata Lacks Quality Control Processes, Policies For Addressing Defects

takata logoAn independent review panel hired by Takata — the company behind the ongoing recall of millions of defective, potentially dangerous, airbags — found that the parts maker lacks processes to improve the quality of its products, or to adequately address problems in its devices once they are installed in vehicles.

The Associated Press reports that the panel — which includes three former heads of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a former U.S. Transportation Secretary — found that Takata lets products move through the design process with unresolved problems and lacks its own standards for testing quality and safety.

Panel chair, and former U.S. Transportation Secretary, Samuel Skinner tells the AP that Takata needs “substantial cultural change” in order to ensure the quality of its products.

“When you strive for quality, it involves something that you live and breathe,” Skinner said. “While they lived it and breathed it, they didn’t do it every day like other organizations do.”

In one instance the panel found that Takata allowed ammonium nitrate — the volatile chemical thought to be the root cause for the shrapnel-shooting airbags — to be loaded into canisters by hand at factories. The panel says the loading should be automated to make it more consistent.

So far, the Takata airbag defect, which resulted in the recall of more than 30 million vehicles, has been linked to nine deaths in the U.S., 10 worldwide, and more than 100 injuries.

According to the panel, Takata has already committed to implementing the recommendations, such as forming teams to track product quality from design through application, and developing a monitoring program to track changes.

In other Taktata news, Senators Edward Markey, of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to use “every tool at his disposal” to recall every vehicle with airbags using ammonium nitrate as their propellant, and to ensure they are repaired immediately.

The letter was prompted by the news in December of the ninth Takata-related death in South Carolina.

“It has been apparent for some time that the use of ammonium nitrate is the source of the problem with the faulty Takata airbags,” the letter states. “Yet NHTSA has resisted our repeated calls to expand its recall.”

The senators alleges that nearly half of the 54 million affected airbags have yet to be recalled, posing a threat to drivers and passengers of millions of vehicles.

“We certainly expect a more aggressive effort to ensure that these vehicles are quickly repaired,” the letter states. “Accordingly, we urge the Administration to use its authority to direct NHTSA to expand the current recall so that all consumers driving a vehicle with a Takata airbag are made aware of this fact and can take appropriate action to protect themselves and their families.”

Panel for air bag maker Takata finds problems with its quality processes [The Associated Press]