WASHINGTON — Two senior U.S. senators called on embattled Japanese auto parts maker Takata (IW 1000/904) on Monday to furnish them with 14 years of extensive records and data on the company's faulty airbags.
Senators Jay Rockefeller and Bill Nelson said in a letter to the company that Hiroshi Shimizu, a top Takata official, gave insufficient answers on the airbags to a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last week.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Shimizu was unable to satisfactorily answer many of the questions posed to him," they said in the letter to company chief executive Shigehisa Takada. "As a result, we still have many significant questions about the circumstances surrounding Takata's manufacturing of defective airbags and their widespread distribution and installation in vehicles sold and driven in the United States."
They asked for detailed company records and communications on the faulty airbags, which have been found prone to releasing with explosive force and blowing shrapnel into the occupants of a car.
Several deaths and numerous injuries, including blindness, have been tied to the problem, and the company is already facing lawsuits and a federal criminal probe.
Two separate problems with the airbags have been blamed for the injuries: the improper welding and sealing of the airbag inflators, and the chemical propellant used in the airbag, which critics say is dangerously volatile.
The documents requested include communications that would ostensibly show that Takata knew of the airbag problems much earlier than the recent recalls of some 16 million vehicles worldwide.
One March 2011 email the senators specifically mentioned is titled, in English, “A part that is not welded = one life less," and in Spanish, "Defectos y Defectos y Defectos" ("Defects and Defects and Defects").
The senators asked for Takata's records of incidents and lawsuits involving its airbags going back to 2000, including those of outside consultants, police, and hospitals. They asked the company to submit all the records by December 12.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014