Reuters has announced that Takata, the Japanese airbag manufacturer that has recalled airbags affecting more than 17 million vehicles, has altered the chemical compounds they use in airbag propellants.
Though the company has not made an official announcement, an anonymous Takata official has stated that the composition was altered but also stated that the old composition was not defective.
Takata airbags have been recalled because the original airbags have a tendency, particularly in hot and humid regions, to rupture and release metal shards that injure vehicle occupants during accidents.
Since 2008, more than 17 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide due to defective airbag inflators. Currently, Takata uses ammonium nitrate in its airbag propellants.
The actual source of the defects is still under investigation, as is how widespread the defects actually are. According to Reuters, there may be millions of more vehicles that have Takata airbags but that have not yet been recalled.
For example, General Motors failed to confirm or deny if any of their vehicles on the roadways have Takata airbags and have escaped a recall. The true scope of the defects is likely to emerge in the coming weeks as heightened scrutiny and congressional inquiries force auto manufacturers and Takata to act more comprehensively.
Takata Criminal Charges
Three U.S. Senators have called for the Department of Justice to initiate a criminal investigation into Takata Corporations actions in regards to the defective airbags.
Though the Department of Justice has not yet launched a criminal investigation, it would not be the first time that Takata has been found guilty of criminal charges.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), at least three senior-level Takata executives are serving prison.
In 2013, Takata also pled guilty to settle antitrust charges. The company was ordered to pay $71.3 million for its role in price fixing the cost of seatbelts sold to car manufacturers.
Needless to say, a DOJ investigation that results in criminal prosecution and civil fines would not be a new experience for Takata.
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