Just a day after a senior Takata North America official took his lumps from members of the Senate Commerce Committee for faulty airbags, the company’s CEO Shigehisa Takada made a brief apology at a news conference in Tokyo.
Takada expressed regret over the problems, saying the exact cause of the problem was still under investigation. While he issued a short apology and bowed along with two other senior executives, he said nothing else, leaving the other executives to handle the media briefing.
He hasn’t appeared before the media since the problems with the company’s airbags came to light. The faulty airbags can explode hitting passengers with shrapnel. The bags have been blamed for seven deaths in the U.S. and hundreds of injuries.
The company has recalled 33.8 million vehicles in the U.S. due to the airbags: the largest product recall in this country’s history. The problem has existed for more than decade and affects 11 automakers.
Executive Vice President Kevin Kennedy testified before the Senate committee that the supplier was working quickly and diligently to replace the airbag inflators in the affected vehicles. Those efforts include using parts from competitors to expedite the process.
(Takata ended airbag investigations due to costs. For more, Click Here.)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked if Takata would follow the lead of General Motors and establish a compensation fund for victims. Kennedy said he wasn’t authorized to make that kind of commitment, but did say he would bring the concept to his superiors and get back to Blumenthal in two weeks.
Blumenthal, an outspoken member of the committee, wasn’t alone in questioning.
(Click Here for details about NHTSA coming under fire for investigations.)
Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., pushed Kennedy to explain why the company continues to use ammonium nitrate in its airbags when other suppliers do not.
“Instead of this airbag saving lives, it is killing people,” Nelson said.
(Toyota added 1.37 million vehicles to Takata-based recall. Click Here for the report.)
Former Takata engineers expressed concerns about using of the compound, but that the company chose to use it for cost reasons. Kennedy said the compound is safe as long as its treated with stabilizing chemicals. He added the company’s now-discontinued bat-wing style inflators allowed for destabilization. The new designs do not. Takata is replacing all of the bat-wing style inflators.