NHTSA: Takata Hit with $70 Million Fine and Admits its Airbags Were Defective

NHTSA: Takata Hit with $70 Million Fine and Admits its Airbags Were Defective
Image: Pixabay
November 3, 2015

More than two years after automakers began recalling cars with defective Takata airbags, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued its largest fine against the embattled airbag maker.

NHTSA hit Takata with a $200 million civil penalty and for the first time, the agency is using its legal authority to accelerate recall repairs to the 19 million affected vehicles.

Of the $200 million fine, Takata is only responsible for $70 million unless they fail to meet the terms of the agreement. The agreement does, however, require Takata to admit that the company knew the airbags were defective, but failed to order a timely recall.

The agency also found that Takata provided NHTSA and its customers with selective, incomplete or inaccurate data dating back to at least 2009.

Defective Takata airbags are believed to be a factor is seven deaths and nearly 100 injuries in the U.S. following accidents in which the airbag ruptured upon deployment, spraying plastic and metal shards throughout the car.

With humidity considered to be the likely cause of the propellant instability, carmakers initially issued regional recalls for cars located in high humidity areas, like the Deep South. National recalls were issued shortly after reports of airbags rupturing in cars outside the recall area.

The agreement lays out a schedule for recalling all Takata ammonium nitrate inflators now on the roads unless the company can prove they are safe or can show it has determined why its inflators are prone to rupture.

The order also imposes unprecedented oversight on Takata for the next five years, including an independent monitor selected by NHTSA to assess, track and report the company's compliance with the phase-out schedule and other requirements of the Consent Order, and to oversee the Coordinated Remedy Program.

NHTSA is for the first time using its legal authority to accelerate safety defect repairs if the manufactures' remedy plans are likely to put Americans at risk. The Coordinated Remedy Program issued to Takata and the 12 affected carmakers directs them to prioritize their remedy programs based on risk, and establishes a schedule by which they must have sufficient parts on hand to remedy the defect for all affected vehicles by June 2016 and provide final remedies for all vehicles by the end of 2019.