Takata rejects creation of fund for victims of faulty airbags

A recalled Takata airbag inflator.
A recalled Takata airbag inflator.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Takata, under fire for allegedly concealing dangers linked to its airbags, has refused to set up a victims' compensation fund, a US lawmaker said in a report in Friday's New York Times.

Senator Richard Blumenthal at a congressional hearing last month urged the Tokyo-based company to create a fund for victims.

He shared with the newspaper a letter he received from Kevin Kennedy, an executive vice president at Takata, rejecting his suggestion.

"Takata believes that a national compensation fund is not currently required," Kennedy wrote in the letter furnished by Blumenthal.

Kennedy added that the company would let the senator know if, after further review, it changes its mind.

Blumenthal told the daily that he found the company's response unacceptable.

"Takata seems unwilling to acknowledge its responsibility to help the victims and loved ones of victims that have suffered as a result of its lapses and gaps in performance," he told The Times.

A spokesman contacted separately told the newspaper on Thursday that Takata was "committed to treating fairly anyone injured as a result of an inflater rupture."

"For that reason, Takata has settled a number of injury claims and will continue to do so based on the facts and circumstances of individual cases," said company spokesman Jared Levy.

Takata for months has been searching for what is causing the deadly explosions of its airbags, particularly in humid environments.

Its defective airbags have been blamed for eight deaths and more than 100 injuries around the world.

The defect - thought to be associated with a chemical propellant that helps inflate the airbags - can cause them to deploy with explosive force, sending metal shrapnel hurtling toward drivers and passengers.

Ten global automakers, also including General Motors and Germany's BMW, are being forced to recall some 34 million cars in the United States alone to replace the inflators - the biggest recall in US history.

US safety regulators began fining Takata US $14,000 (S$18,922) a day in February to pressure it to supply documentation on internal probes into airbag issues dating back more than a decade.