U.S. fines Takata for not cooperating in probe

Feb 20, 2015, 1:02 PM EST
Hiroshi Shimizu, senior vice president of global quality assurance at Takata Corp., speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. Takata Corp. snubbed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) yesterday in refusing to expand recalls beyond high-humidity areas, where four motorists have died and about 8 million cars have been called back.
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. will fine Japanese air-bag maker Takata Corporation $14,000 per day for failing to comply with an investigation into its defective airbags.  Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Friday his agency has requested documents and other data from Takata about its air bags, and the company hasn’t fully complied, writes Bloomberg. The fines could reach a maximum of $70 million based on U.S. law.


The Wall Street Journal notes that a dozen auto makers have recalled some 25 million vehicles world-wide an account of the problematic Takata air bags, which can explode and spray shrapnel, injuring and in some cases killing drivers and passengers. At least six deaths have been linked to the defect. Takata has said it is cooperating fully with regulators and auto makers to get to the bottom of the air-bag problem, while conducting its own tests. A group of 10 auto makers separately is in the process of launching its own joint probe into the root causes of the air-bag ruptures.


The fines escalate tensions between regulators and Takata, which has resisted requests for broader vehicle recalls to deal with the defective air bags beyond those in certain humid regions where it deems customers most at risk. The penalty of $14,000 a day is double what the agency levied against General Motors Co. last year for failing to answer questions related to a deadly ignition switch prone to jostling out of the “run” position and cutting power to older cars and their brakes, air bags and other safety features.


Specifically, the government is accusing Takata of dumping more than 2.4 million pages of documents on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) without any guide to or explanation of the content, according to Reuters. "As you are well aware, NHTSA has repeatedly engaged Takata and asked for the company's explanation of the content of the deluge of documents that it has produced thus far," NHTSA said in a letter to Takata lawyer Steven Bradbury. Saying that Takata has wasted agency time and resources, NHTSA concluded in its letter that the company was neither forthcoming nor cooperative. It said the $14,000 per day fine for violating two "special orders" seeking information would begin on Friday.

Regulators said it could refer the dispute with Takata to the U.S. Justice Department if the company doesn’t immediately and fully respond to its requests and pay accrued fines, concludes the Wall Street Journal.