After months of silence, it appears that the prospect of the Congressional hearings has finally motivated the CEO of Takata to apologize for making defective airbags that have killed at least eight people.
On June 25, Shigehisa Takata, grandson of the auto parts company’s founder, admitted at a press conference that he had missed several prior opportunities to speak publicly about the defective airbags, which we have discussed several times before in this blog. The airbags can inflate with too much force, sending shrapnel from the dashboard flying into drivers and passengers. Seven Americans are among the eight people currently known to have been killed by this defect, eventually leading to the recall of around 34 million vehicles.
In his remarks, Takata offered his condolences to the survivors of those killed. He said the company is considering options for compensating families and the more than 100 people who suffered non-fatal injuries. The CEO said he had been working behind the scenes ensuring that Takata’s products are now safe, though the company is still unsure exactly what exactly causes the excessive inflations.
Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee released a report in which investigators accuse Takata of ending safety audits of airbags in 2009 to save money. That same year, a supervisor at one of Takata’s plants exchanged emails with an engineer, voicing concerns that improper welds on airbag inflators could lead to death.
The report says that suspending safety audits is part of a pattern with Takata of putting profits over safety standards. Takata said the report “contains a number of inaccuracies.” The CEO said he will not resign over the scandal.
Source: NBC News, “Takata Corp CEO Finally Apologizes for Faulty Airbags,” Arata Yamamoto and Henry Austin, June 25, 2015