Well, now we are really starting to get somewhere. A preliminary trial underway in Florida involving a Takata airbag is shedding some new light into the ongoing crisis that’s sparked the largest automotive recall in history.
Namely, preliminary testimony indicates Takata engineers not only hid problems with the company’s explosive inflators, but that they also tossed the evidence. The testimony was disclosed during a preliminary hearing on Friday involving a Florida woman who was paralyzed in a 2014 accident in her 2001 Honda Civic. She claims her Takata airbag deployed too forcefully, causing her injuries.
According to the New York Times, testimony stemming from the case reveals that Takata knew it had a problem as early as 2000, when failures took place during internal testing. This is around the time a propellant, which included a compound called ammonium nitrate, was introduced into the inflators.
Furthermore, the NYT report says the company also hid testing failures from its biggest customer, Honda. According to court documents, Takata changed the data and deemed its airbags safe, when they were in fact, not.
The NYT attributes the testimony to Thomas Sheridan who was a former Takata airbag engineer. In a deposition, Sheridan reportedly claimed he tried to examine airbag parts that had failed testing, but that he discovered Takata execs had discarded the evidence. Takata’s vice president for engineering at the time, Al Bernat, has also been tied to a series of airbag tests in 2004, in which former Takata test engineers have said that evidence was also discarded.
By the way, Bernat still works for Takata and the Japanese airbag supplier declined a New York Times request for an interview. However, a company spokesman said it “believes that the lawsuit is without merit and intends to defend itself vigorously.”
Faulty Takata airbags are linked to at least 10 deaths worldwide, all but one in a Honda vehicle. So far, 14 automakers have recalled about 28 million inflators.
Last fall, the NHTSA fined Takata $70 million for failing to disclose the defects and cooperate with safety regulators on a timely recall.
Honda, along with Nissan and Toyota, has already dropped Takata as its airbag supplier.
For more information about the ongoing recall, head to the government’s website SaferCar.Gov.