Two former Takata employees, including a senior member of its testing lab, have alleged that the company conducted secret airbag tests and knew about the airbag risks a decade ago.
According to the New York Times, the former employees say they conducted tests on 50 airbags that were retrieved from scrapyards. The steel inflators in two of the airbags cracked during tests, which can lead to a rupture. Engineers began designing possible fixes in preparation for a recall, but were instead told to cover up the tests.
Takata executives discounted the findings and ordered lab technicians to delete the testing results from their computers and dispose of the airbag inflators that were tested.
The tests were performed after normal work hours, on weekends and holidays during summer 2004 at Takata’s American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. The first recall for these dangerous airbags came in Nov. 2008. However, in 2004, at least two incidents involving ruptured airbags reportedly led to injuries.
Today, it has been estimated that defective Takata airbags are responsible for at least 139 injuries and four deaths. Takata has declined to comment on these allegations while Honda has said that they intend to determine if anyone at Honda has evidence that these claims are credible.
In documents reviewed by the New York Times, emails show workers raising concerns about airbag units that may have been damaged during transportation. Videos also show footage of forklifts dropping stacks of the airbag units. The dropped airbags were not always properly checked for damage.
Although the company intends to cooperate with the government investigation, it seems that the company continually missed opportunities to fix the problem before it spiraled out of control.
If you or someone you love has been injured by a defective Takata airbag, our airbag recall lawyers can help you determine if you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim.