Takata, the Japanese seatbelt and airbag manufacturer, has been the center of a defect scandal since last year. Takata is under fire for air bag inflators that can explode, shooting out metal and plastic pieces. At least five deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to the problem worldwide. Earlier this year, Honda Motor Co., the automaker with the biggest exposure to the defective Takata air bags, was fined $70 million in the U.S. for not reporting to regulators some 1,729 complaints that its vehicles caused deaths and injuries, and for not reporting warranty claims. It was the largest civil penalty levied against an automaker.
Should he take the role, Kelly would be at the fore of an investigation being assembled by an alliance of ten automakers, which includes the Detroit Three and Honda. Toyota first suggested a joint investigation back in December, The Journal reports.
Kelly's goals, meanwhile, will be many. The Detroit News reports that questions abound regarding not only the recalled airbag inflators and the conditions that cause them to fail, but the whether the replacement units will have similar problems in the future.
The automaker committee is far from the only one analyzing the airbag issue. Takata has assembled its own panel, led by former Secretary of Transportation Samuel Skinner, while NHTSA's deputy administrator, David Friedman, has brought in an outside engineering firm to investigate the inflators, The Detroit News reports.
Separately, on Friday Takata Corp., the Japanese seatbelt and air-bag maker at the center of a defect scandal, is expecting more red ink for the fiscal year through March. It is projecting a 31 billion yen ($264 million) loss, worse than the previous forecast for a 25 billion yen ($214 million) loss, despite higher sales expected for the fiscal year.
Ten automakers have recalled about 12 million vehicles in the U.S. and about 19 million globally for problems with the air bags. The company is still trying to determine the exact cause of the problem. Takata said that it was working with the automakers to deal with the recalls and the expenses. It has insurance to deal with much of the cost. But it acknowledged it was unable to assess the possible future costs of the many lawsuits it faces over the defects, as well as from possible fines from U.S. authorities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.