Yesterday the NHTSA, the US auto safety regulator ordered Japan’s Takata Corp to save all airbag inflators that have been taken out of cars after the recall process is completed – with the parts to be used as evidence for the ongoing federal probe and upcoming private litigations.
According to Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesperson for the NHTSA, this is the first time the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency from within the US Department of Transportation, has ever ordered a company to save evidence in case private litigation cases need it. According to the NHTSA, the defective parts can explode with too much force, sending metal shards and other shrapnel flying inside the cabin at high velocity. Millions of cars have been recalled worldwide since 2008 by ten automakers, though the vast majority of the safety campaigns occurred in the US. The flawed components have been linked to at least six deaths so far and numerous injuries, prompting several lawsuits.
The directive from US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx also states Takata is not allowed to destroy or damage any airbag inflators save for the ones used for testing procedures. Additionally, ten percent of the recalled airbag inflators need to be saved for additional testing by private plaintiffs. Takata has to allow access to the NHTSA, a consortium of automakers and the private litigants for testing purposes. “We believe the outcome is in the best interest of all parties, and consistent with our commitment to the safety of the driving public,” commented a spokesperson for the Japan-based auto safety parts supplier on the sidelines of Foxx’s order. The latter also announced the NHTSA would also change its Takata investigation to an engineering analysis, another formal step in the agency’s probing process.