Takata Heads Back to Congress over Faulty Airbags
by Aaron M. Kessler, The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Japanese airbag supplier Takata is facing more questions Wednesday morning before a House panel, less than 12 hours after a deadline passed for it to comply with an order by American safety regulators to recall airbags nationwide.
“I’m sorry to say it’s been a bad year” for auto safety, Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the Commerce and Energy Committee, said Wednesday at the hearing. While the Takata airbag issue is a complicated one, he said, “complexity is not an excuse for incompetence.”
Late Tuesday, Takata rebuffed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s midnight deadline to expand its recalls. More than 11 million vehicles in the United States have been recalled so far over Takata’s defective airbag inflaters, which can explode with such force that they break apart, sending metal shrapnel flying into drivers and passengers. The airbags have been linked to at least five deaths.
But many of the recalls have been limited to vehicles registered in Southern states and other areas of “high humidity.” The safety agency has demanded that the recalls be extended nationwide for driver’s side airbags. It threatened further legal action and potential penalties if Takata refused to comply.
Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and the committee’s ranking member, said at the opening of Wednesday’s hearing that documents received by the panel raised questions about why the safety agency was not demanding more regarding passenger side airbags.
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