US fines Takata record $280 million over faulty airbags

US officials Anthony Foxx (right) and Mark Rosekind announce actions taken against Takata.
US officials Anthony Foxx (right) and Mark Rosekind announce actions taken against Takata.AFP

WASHINGTON  (AFP) – US auto safety regulators announced a record US$200 million (S$280 million) fine against Takata on Tuesday for providing inadequate and inaccurate information about its dangerously explosive airbags installed in millions of cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the Japanese auto parts maker had evaded reporting requirements, including making “the conscious decision” to not report two incidents to the regulator, despite what is now eight deaths worldwide tied to the faulty airbags.

The agency, however, said that Takata would have to pay just US$70 million initially, with additional amounts to be levied only if Takata further violates NHTSA orders or the US Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

“For years, Takata has built and sold defective inflators. It refused to acknowledge that they were defective,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“Delay, misdirection, and refusal to acknowledge the truth allowed a serious problem to become a massive crisis.”

The NHTSA also said it was ordering 12 automakers with the dangerous Takata airbags in their cars to accelerate recalls to replace the equipment, and to set a priority for those cars at the highest risk.

“These inflators still pose an unacceptable risk to the public,” said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind.

“No one deserves to have an exploding air bag installed in their vehicle.”