Takata ignored employees' inflator concerns, report says
Embattled automotive safety products supplier Takata Corp. ignored concerns from employees about misleading and manipulated data provided to Honda Motor Co. about its airbag inflators from as early as 2000, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
A person familiar with the matter confirmed the details of the report on Wednesday to Automotive News Europe's sister publication Automotive News.
The Journal report late Tuesday cited “internal Takata documents” that show employees raised concerns about the Japanese company concealing the results of failed compliance tests and providing Honda false reports on its airbag inflators.
“Takata deeply regrets the problems that occurred with these validation tests and reports,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “These lapses were and are totally incompatible with Takata’s engineering standards and protocols, and we sincerely apologize to our customers, our regulators, and the driving public.”
Takata airbag inflators containing ammonium nitrate propellants are the subjects of one of the largest recalls in U.S. history. About 19.2 million vehicles have been recalled because of the potential for exploding shrapnel from defective parts, which has led to at least eight deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Honda, Takata’s largest customer, announced this month that it will not use the supplier’s airbag inflators on all future models, citing an investigation into Takata internal documents that suggested the company “misrepresented and manipulated test data.”
Honda said in a statement on Wednesday that a third-party audit of Takata test data given to the automaker has begun. The company said it will report the results to U.S. regulators and “will be in a better position to comment further” at that time.
Ford, Nissan and Toyota have joined Honda in saying they will no longer use certain Takata inflators.
The automakers’ announcements came after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said this month that it had fined Takata $70 million for failing to issue a timely recall for the defect. Takata has said it will phase out the use of ammonium nitrate in its inflators. It is subject to an additional $130 million in fines from NHTSA if it violates its consent order with the agency or violates U.S. auto safety laws.
Takata said in the statement it “brought the issues with validation testing to the attention of NHTSA and other government authorities more than a year ago in the course of the investigation of inflator ruptures.”
The Journal report says the internal Takata documents show the company’s U.S. employees raised red flags about Japanese employees manipulating data, particularly on the validation tests conducted to determine whether a product meets the demands of its customers.
Documents from November 2000 sent to Honda by U.S. employees in “a group called Inflation Systems Inc.” detail purported “inconsistencies” in a Takata report on airbag inflators sent to Honda in June 2000, the Journal reported.
Documents from 2005 written by U.S. Takata engineer Bob Schubert laid out what he saw as altered information on different Takata inflators, according to the Journal. The article also cites a May 2010 “Takata presentation (that) cited inaccurate reporting of a good ‘safety factor’ measurement to Honda and other alterations.”
Takata said it “has taken, and will continue to take, steps to improve our procedures and oversight to ensure that similar process failures are not happening today and will not recur in the future.”