USA charges former Takata executives over airbag scandal

Three former Takata executives were also charged by the U.S. authorities on Friday for their part in the scandal.

They were identified as Shinichi Tanaka, who was executive vice president for global inflator operations; Hideo Nakajima, who was head of engineering at the company's automotive systems labs; and Tsuneo Chikaraishi, who was chief of the airbag inflator operations department for Asia.

In its plea, Takata admitted that since at least 2000, it knew the certain of its nitrate-based inflators were not performing to the automaker's specifications, and also that certain iterations of the inflator were prone to failures during testing, including but not limited to rupturing. The firm, which also has assembly plants in Brazil and Uruguay, also pleaded guilty to a single criminal charge, the company and the US Department of Justice said.

Takata Corporation, one of the largest supplier of safety-equipment in the world has been penalised for sale of defective airbags.

Takata's board approved the settlement with the department, according to Reuters.

The inflators can explode with too much force, launching shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

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Officials said Takata had cooperated with federal investigators in the case, which eased some of the penalties, but noted that the severity of the violations and the fact they had occurred for more than 15 years required serious punitive measures. All three were long-time executives at Takata until 2015, and all three worked both in Japan and Takata's USA operations.

"(Takata) falsified and manipulated data because they wanted to make profits on their airbags, knowing they were creating risk for the end users, who are soccer mums like me", Ms Barbara McQuade, a United States attorney for the eastern district of MI, said at a news conference in Detroit.

Arrest warrants were issued for all three former executives.

McQuade declined to put a percentage on the chances of getting them back to the USA, but said the chances are "pretty good". The settlement may help Takata win financial backing from an investor to help it restructure and pay for the liabilities from what is now the largest automotive safety recall to date.

Most major carmakers have been affected by the fault, with about 100 million Takata airbags recalled globally. The remaining money from the $1B will go to automakers that were defrauded by Takata, this is to cover the cost of replacing recalled parts.

The manufacturer also has been accused by government transportation regulators and Honda Motor Co. of manipulating test data and playing down the gravity of the problem after the first victim was reported in 2008.

  • Toni Ryan