Takata has seemingly made an about face following reports that it would expand its regional airbag recall into a nationwide repair effort, issuing a scathing, four-page letter rebutting allegations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and its Office of Defects while simultaneously attacking the government's handling of the situation.
There have been "approximately 0.000006 failures per air bag deployment, which is far below the failure rate" of most recalls, Takata claims.
The Japanese supplier claims in its letter that the "currently available, reliable information does not support a nationwide determination of a safety defect," arguing that there were "approximately 0.000006 failures per air bag deployment, which is far below the failure rate in the vast majority of the thousands of recalls," The Detroit News reports.
Takata then breaks down the two specific incidents mentioned in NHTSA's original recall request letter, a 2005 Honda Accord and 2007 Ford Mustang. Referencing the two crashes, NHTSA Administrator David Friedman said last month "one incident is an anomaly, but two are a trend."
The supplier, though, argues the Honda issue is already being covered by that company's soon-to-be-national recall (more on that in a moment). The company then goes on to point out that neither Takata nor NHTSA has been able to analyze the Mustang's airbag inflator, saying that such a lack of examination meant there was "no way to ascertain what actually occurred during the incident, whether any inflator ruptured, and whether any inflator rupture that may have occurred was related to the incidents that led to the current regional campaigns."
Takata also took the opportunity to take a few swipes at NHTSA's behavior during the airbag scandal, saying it was "very surprised to receive" a recall request letter because the ODI had yet to even receive the company's responses to a pair of special orders. It also alleged that NHTSA was disobeying its own statute, which says only manufacturers of vehicles and replacement equipment can "decide in good faith whether their products contain a safety related defect," and that the government can only "issue an initial decision that a safety-related defect exists" to those same entities.
Takata alleges that NHTSA has disobeyed its own statutes.
We're guessing that Takata's belligerence may have been toned down a bit after it saw a new report from Reuters, which alleges that the company has been investigating faulty airbag inflators as early as 2004, over a year earlier than originally claimed. According to Reuters, the revelation comes courtesy of a pair of former employees who confirmed that there had been internal investigations in January and June 2004 at a pair of the company's Michigan facilities. This news should make for a tense Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, as Takata Chief Quality Officer Hiroshi Shimizu retakes the stand after claiming investigations into faulty airbag inflators hadn't begun until May 2005.
Honda, meanwhile, has gone ahead with an expansion of its own regional recall, complying with the US government's request.
"Why are we doing this? Because our customers have concerns and we want to address them," said Rick Schostek, Honda's North American executive VP, according to The News. At least there's one aspect of this entire scandal that looks to be going simply.