Published: Sat, January 14, 2017
Sci-tech | By Jose Becker

United States indicts three Takata executives in faulty air bag scandal

United States indicts three Takata executives in faulty air bag scandal

Three Takata executives have been charged in six counts of conspiracy, wire fraud in scheme to hide defect in air bag inflators.

Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi were charged in federal court in MI.

The three executives, who were suspended from their duties at Takata in 2015, now reside in Japan.

The company is expected to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing as part of a $1 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

The final agreement with the Japanese airbag maker may include criminal charges and a fine of up to US$1 billion, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The faulty inflators have touched off the largest automotive recall in U.S. history involving 42 million vehicles and 69 million inflators.

Takata has previously acknowledged issues related to the integrity of Takata's inflator validation testing and reporting of test results to its customers.

Takata air bag defect has been blamed for at least 11 deaths and over 180 injuries in the United States
Takata air bag defect has been blamed for at least 11 deaths and over 180 injuries in the United States

The two companies are the latest in the industry to come under scrutiny of US prosecutors. "Unfortunately, defective airbags continue to remain on America's roadways at the expense of drivers across the country", said Rep. The air bags were failing during tests, and the executives allegedly knew it. All of these vehicles have been recalled by a number of automakers. At least 16 people have died worldwide from the problem and more than 180 have been hurt.

Takata, which holds 20 per cent of the world's airbag market, has been plagued by recalls in the last three years. Takata says the passenger side air bags contain an improper amount of the chemical ammonium nitrate, which produces the gas that makes them inflate. Takata, the third-biggest air-bag maker in the world, started its search for a buyer a year ago.

In November 2015, Takata agreed to pay a $70 million fine for safety violations with US auto safety regulators and could face deferred penalties of up to $130 million under a NHTSA settlement. They routinely fabricated test data or removed unfavorable information from data they supplied to automakers, the indictment said.

Ford Motor Company is adding more than 816-thousand vehicles in North America to the Takata airbag inflator recall.

Earlier on Friday Takata shares closed nearly 17% higher in Tokyo on reports of the settlement with U.S. regulators.

Some Honda vehicles with Takata air bags were recalled as early as 2008, according to NHTSA.

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