Japan’s Takata on Tuesday night refused to obey a U.S. government demand to expand a recall of its faulty air bags, which have been linked to multiple deaths worldwide. The Japanese manufacturer of automotive parts had a midnight deadline to expand the recall, but the company had taken no action and instead passed along the decision to automakers.
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had set a Tuesday midnight deadline for Takata to respond to a demand to expand the recall of defective air bags to the rest of the nation, or face further legal action and civil fines, The Associated Press (AP) reported, adding that a group of automakers also intend to do their own testing of the Takata-made air bags. Earlier, the recalls were limited to certain states known to have high humidity levels, which has been found to make the air bags malfunction.
Takata’s response to the NHTSA was “neither a yes nor a no,” Hideyuki Matsumoto, a company spokesperson, said Tuesday, adding that Takata would cooperate with the automakers on their decision about the recalls. However, the NHTSA criticized Takata’s response as inadequate.
“Takata shares responsibility for keeping drivers safe and we believe anything short of a national recall does not live up to that responsibility. We will review Takata’s response in full to determine next steps,” David J. Friedman, deputy administrator of NHTSA, said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
Takata’s response to the NHTSA's demand is expected to set the stage for a face-off on Wednesday, when Takata and some automakers will appear at a U.S. House subcommittee hearing on the issue. Meanwhile, automakers are growing increasingly concerned about the delay in Takata's investigation into its flawed air bags.
While Takata said Tuesday that it had formed a panel to investigate its process of manufacturing inflators that go into the air bags, Toyota Motor and Honda Motor also said that they were calling for an industry-wide investigation.
Toyota said that it would ask the industry to hire an independent engineering company and the affected companies would share the results of the inquiry to better understand recall-related repairs, AP reported, adding that General Motors, Nissan, Subaru, Chrysler and Ford had also agreed to cooperate.
As many as 14 million vehicles worldwide have been recalled due to the air bag problem, including 8 million vehicles in the U.S. Overall, five deaths have been linked to the air bags so far.