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US Fines Company for Stonewalling Airbag Probe

Feb. 20, 2015
About 20 million vehicles produced by some of the world's biggest automakers are being recalled due to the risk their Takata-made airbags could deploy with excessive explosive power, spraying potentially fatal shrapnel into the vehicle.

NEW-TORK – U.S. regulators Friday fined Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata $14,000 a day, accusing it of stonewalling the investigation into the company's defective airbags.

Takata failed to fully respond to regulator requests to explain some 2.4 million pages of company documents supplied in the probe, or to provide knowledgeable staff for a "walk-through" of the papers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.

"Takata is neither being forthcoming with the information that it is legally obligated to supply, nor is it being cooperative in aiding NHTSA's ongoing investigation of a potentially serious safety defect," NHTSA chief counsel O. Kevin Vincent said in a letter to Takata.

About 20 million vehicles produced by some of the world's biggest automakers are being recalled due to the risk their Takata-made airbags could deploy with excessive explosive power, spraying potentially fatal shrapnel into the vehicle.

The problem has been linked to at least five deaths globally.

U.S. regulations require Takata to explain documents that are not self-explanatory. Vincent said the company's failure to provide adequate explanations over several months made a February meeting with "a waste of agency time and resources."

The company will be fined a civil penalty of $14,000 a day starting Friday for each day the violations persists, Vincent said.

He warned Takata that the NHTSA could force depositions of Takata employees in both the U.S. and in Japan if the company did not cooperate fully in "short order". He also said it could refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for court action.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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