Dem senators push Takata to expand air bag recall

Dem senators push Takata to expand air bag recall
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A pair of Senate Democrats is pressing Japanese auto parts company Takata to expand its recall of cars with faulty air bags after a government report accused the company of "widespread manipulation" of air bag inflation tests. 

Sens. Ricard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook's cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children's privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Hillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook's cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children's privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record MORE (D-Mass.) said they have lost faith in Takata after the report, from Democrats on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation, cited "numerous internal documents and emails reference the widespread manipulation of inflator testing results by Takata employees." 

"A company that would manipulate test results is a company that would lie to regulators – and may have for years," the senators said in a joint statement.

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"Now we know there may be an additional 70 million to 90 million vehicles with potentially lethal airbags currently on the road," they continued. "These airbags sit in Americans’ cars like ticking time bombs, and we must take action now to get all Takata airbags off the road. 

"Coming on the heels of a Senate Commerce Committee report exposing Takata falsified data to cover up problems with their products, this is even further evidence that this deceptive company is not to be trusted," the senators concluded. 

Takata has come under fire since issuing a recall in late 2014 of about 8 million cars with faulty airbags that could explode when deployed in humid conditions. The recall was later expanded to include another 17 million cars after federal regulators put pressure on Takata.

The defective airbags were used in cars manufactured by companies including Honda, Lexus, Volkswagen and Chrysler. Accidents involving the defective air bags have been linked to eight deaths so far. 

The top ranking Democrat on the Senate panel that conducted the report about Takata's emails said the new findings reveal an indifference about safety within the company's ranks. 

“These new documents speak for themselves,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonPoll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups How Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA MORE (D-Fla.) said in a statement. “There is no doubt in my mind that Takata failed to prioritize the safety of its products.” 

Blumenthal and Markey said Wednesday that federal regulators should "accelerate the recall of these dangerous airbags" after the findings of the report. 

"Safety recalls shouldn’t be eventual, they should be immediate," they said. "The danger from these exploding airbags isn’t conditional, and neither should be [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's] commitment to get these vehicles off the road. We have a duty to protect the American public, especially when Takata has demonstrated a pernicious disregard for doing so.”

Takata has said it has "previously stated the issues raised in the documents cited in the Senate committee report are entirely inexcusable and will not be tolerated or repeated.  

"Expert analysis, extensive testing, and independent review show that the issues with validation testing of the original phase stabilized ammonium nitrate inflators are not the root cause of the field ruptures that have occurred with Takata inflators, but these issues are totally incompatible with Takata’s engineering standards and protocols," the company said in a statement that was provided to The Hill.

The company has publicly apologized for the faulty air bags amid congressional inquiries into its handling of the defective parts. 

"Takata is deeply sorry for all fatalities and injuries that have occurred in any case where a Takata airbag inflator has failed to deploy as intended," the company said again on Tuesday.  

Takata has reached a $70 million settlement with the traffic safety administration over the recalls that have been linked to the defective airbags.