Takata says subject of U.S. criminal
probe on air bag flaws
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[November 13, 2014]
By Maki Shiraki and Mari Saito
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Takata Corp
<7312.T> is the subject of a U.S. criminal investigation over
potentially defective car air bags that have been linked to five deaths,
a spokesman said on Thursday.
A federal grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York has subpoenaed Takata's U.S. unit to produce
documents related to air bag defects, the spokesman said.
The investigation into the Japanese safety-parts maker by federal
prosecutors had been previously reported, but Thursday's statement
is the first indication that a seated grand jury was seeking
The National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) has
also issued a special order demanding documents and other evidence
related to air bag defects. Takata has until Dec. 1 to comply with
The company disclosed the probe in a closed-door meeting with
financial analysts, according to an account from one participant.
Takata told the analysts it is not considering adding production
lines to make replacement air bag inflators - the explosive device
that allows the air bag to inflate in a fraction of a second in the
event of a crash - according to the account.
Since 2000, Takata has made more than 100 million inflators,
according to industry estimates and company data. Since 2008, more
than 17 million cars equipped with Takata air bags have been
recalled, including more than 11 million in the United States.
Separately, Takata disputed a recent New York Times report that it
had carried out tests on air bags in 2004 in Michigan and found
signs of defects, but did not report the results to federal
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The company said in a rebuttal statement that it believes the Nov. 6
story "was based on serious misunderstandings of the facts." It said
it was testing air bags for tears to cushions in the air bag
modules, not for inflator ruptures, as reported.
Defective Takata air bags have been found to explode with dangerous
force in accidents, sending shards of metal into the vehicle.
A fifth fatality linked to Takata air bags - and the first outside
the United States - was disclosed earlier on Thursday, when Honda
Motor <7267.T> said a driver in Malaysia died in July after being
hit by shrapnel from a Takata air bag.
All five deaths have been in Honda cars. The Japanese carmaker,
Takata's biggest customer, widened its recall for the defective air
bags by another 170,000 vehicles globally, taking its total recalls
to nearly 10 million vehicles.
(Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)
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