WASHINGTON, D.C. — Already under fire for allegedly concealing dangers linked to its airbags, Takata has refused to set up a victims’ compensation fund, a U.S. lawmaker said in a report published Friday in The New York Times.
Senator Richard Blumenthal urged the Tokyo-based company to create a fund for victims at a congressional hearing last month. He shared with the newspaper a letter he received from Kevin Kennedy, an executive vice president at Takata, rejecting his suggestion.
“Takata believes that a national compensation fund is not currently required,” Kennedy wrote in the letter furnished by Blumenthal. Kennedy added that the company would let the senator know if, after further review, it changes its mind.
Blumenthal told the daily that he found the company’s response unacceptable.
“Takata seems unwilling to acknowledge its responsibility to help the victims and loved ones of victims that have suffered as a result of its lapses and gaps in performance,” he told The Times.
When contacted separately on Thursday, Takata spokesman Jared Levy told the newspaper that the company was “committed to treating fairly anyone injured as a result of an inflator rupture. For that reason, Takata has settled a number of injury claims and will continue to do so based on the facts and circumstances of individual cases.”
Takata has been searching for months for what is causing the deadly explosions of its airbags, particularly in humid environments, since its defective airbags have been blamed for eight deaths and more than 100 injuries around the world.
The defect – thought to be associated with a chemical propellant that helps inflate the airbags — can cause them to deploy with explosive force, sending metal shrapnel hurtling toward drivers and passengers.
Ten global automakers, also including General Motors and Germany’s BMW, are being forced to recall some 34 million cars in the United States alone — and more than 40 million around the world — to replace the inflators, the biggest recall in U.S. history.
American safety regulators began fining Takata $14,000 a day in February to pressure it to supply documentation on internal probes into airbag issues dating back more than a decade.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015