Takata, the Japanese manufacturer of faulty air bags that have caused automakers to recall millions of vehicles worldwide, issued a statement on Wednesday night, denying accusations by two former employees that the company concealed crucial information about potentially defective air bags following an accident in 2004. Takata’s rebuttal was closely followed by a statement from Honda Motor disclosing another death -- the fifth fatality allegedly linked to Takata-made air bags in Honda vehicles.
According to a New York Times report last week, Takata conducted secret tests on 50 of its air bags and told its workers to destroy the test results rather than inform federal authorities of the problem.
The company has responded by stating that the Times report confused “multiple events occurring at different times and for different purposes and thereby tells a story that is simply untrue.” The Takata statement coincided with Honda Motor’s disclosure that a driver in Malaysia had died after a July accident, and linked it to a faulty air bag made by Takata.
While the two former employees told the Times that Takata carried out the secret tests on air bags in 2004 in Michigan, after a crash of a Honda Accord in Alabama in May injured the car’s driver, the Japanese company said in its latest statement that its engineers in the U.S. were not aware of the defect with air bags until “the middle of 2005.”
“So they did not and could not perform inflater tests in 2004 in response to that accident,” Takata said in the statement, which also contradicted Honda’s account of the 2004 accident, the Times reported.
Honda had said in August that it had “immediately shared all available information with the airbag supplier and reported the incident” to safety regulators “in the second quarter of 2004.”
Meanwhile, one of the two former Takata employees, who was a senior member of the testing lab, told the Times on Wednesday that the latest statement from the company is false. “What Takata says is not true,” the former employee, said. “They are trying to switch things around.”
Honda Widens Recall
Disclosing the fifth fatality in a Honda vehicle allegedly involving a Takata-made air bag on Thursday, Honda also widened the number of recalls linked to the defective air bags by another 170,000 vehicles, Reuters reported, adding that the fatal incident involved a 2003 Honda City model. According to Honda, it is recalling five models of its vehicles, including the Fit and Civic.
Takata air bags have reportedly triggered the recall of more than 14 million vehicles from 11 automakers worldwide since 2008. The defective air bags have reportedly been known to explode under great force and spray shrapnel at occupants, a problem that has reportedly caused four deaths and more than 30 injuries in the U.S.