Japan’s Takata Corp has been summoned by U.S. investigators as part of a criminal investigation into the company’s air bags that have been linked to multiple deaths. The latest development to the air bag crisis follows a statement from Honda Motor on Wednesday, disclosing another death allegedly linked to Takata-made air bags in its vehicles.
On Thursday, Takata's unit in the U.S. received a federal grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York to produce documents on the air bag defects. The Japanese manufacturer will also be questioned by a U.S. Senate committee in a hearing scheduled for next Thursday. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has confirmed that the hearing will be chaired by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the Wall Street Journal reported.
The hearing will “focus on how defective Takata air bags became installed in so many vehicles and the responses of both automakers and regulators to protect consumers,” the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said in an e-mailed statement, obtained by Bloomberg.
The defective air bags have reportedly been known to explode under great force and spray shrapnel at occupants, a problem that has now been linked to five deaths in Honda vehicles alone after the car maker disclosed a recent fatality in Malaysia in July. The company also widened the number of recalls linked to the defective air bags by another 170,000 vehicles.
The investigators summoned Takata after a New York Times report said that the company secretly tested air bag inflators following an accident in 2004, and destroyed the test results without informing regulators about the problem. Takata denied the accusations, made by two former employees in the Times report, saying that it confused “multiple events occurring at different times and for different purposes and thereby tells a story that is simply untrue.”
Meanwhile, Takata’s CEO Shigehisa Takada on Thursday apologized to customers and shareholders for the company’s problems. “Our whole company will strengthen our quality management structure and work to prevent an incident from occurring again,” Takada reportedly said in a statement posted on the company’s website.
So far, 11 automakers have recalled over 14 million vehicles worldwide in connection to air bags manufactured by Takata.