According to the sources who remain unnamed by The New York Times because they still have links to Takata, following a crash in 2004, the supplier began pulling airbags out of vehicles at junk yards and tested them after work, on weekends and during holidays, to keep it a secret. Allegedly, at least two of these evaluations showed cracks in the parts, and the workers actually began developing a solution for a presumed recall.
However, at some point the analysis was stopped, and all of the data was destroyed. According to the insiders, these studies were allegedly known at least as high as Takata's vice president of engineering. If this is the case, then the company was aware of the issues four years before it claims that it began investigating in 2008.
Allegedly, at least two of these evaluations showed cracks in the parts.
Furthermore, other anonymous sources within Takata tell The New York Times that the problems could go even deeper. The company allegedly had serious quality control issues. In one case, a forklift dropped a container of airbag parts, and they weren't properly inspected afterward. In another example, trucks were reportedly leaking water onto the components during transit, even after employees found a way to stop it. According to workers, these problems went ignored because of pressure to keep up with the demand for airbags from Takata's many automotive partners.
We may learn even more about the company's handling of this recall in the near future. A pending investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires that Takata submit its official documents and answer 36 detailed questions by December 1 or face a fine of up to $35 million.