Former Takata employees have implicated top executives in an alleged cover-up of airbag defect tests dating back a decade.
After receiving a notification that one of its airbag inflators ruptured and injured a driver, the supplier in 2004 reportedly obtained 50 components from scrapyards. The tests reportedly confirmed potential trouble, with cracks in two of the steel inflator capsules, however the test program was brushed under the rug.
“One day, it was, ‘Pack it all up, shut the whole thing down,'” a former engineer at the company told The New York Times. “It was not standard procedure.”
Executives allegedly ordered lab staff to erase any test data from their computers, then scrap any inflators that had been included in the trial. The results do not appear to have been shared with automakers or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The latest report further suggests Takata has been misleading automakers and federal investigators by claiming that manufacturing problems were resolved by 2002. Internal documents point to ongoing handling issues, including airbag exposure to moisture and machine problems that caused the propellant to become more volatile, as late as 2009.
“Claims such as these have raised additional concerns about Takata’s handling of airbag issues and are one of the reasons we’re compelling them to produce documents and answer questions, under oath,” the NHTSA said in a statement.
As the NHTSA continues to investigate the issue, the agency itself is under scrutiny over its decision to drop an earlier investigation in 2010 without pursuing any recall action or a deeper inquiry.