U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday criticized Japanese supplier Takata Corp for resisting a call by regulators to expand nationwide its regional recall of driver-side air bags that can potentially rupture upon deployment, shooting metal shards into vehicles. The hearing by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee comes after Takata told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday that current data does not support the need for such an expanded recall.
It also said it was surprised by the agency's request because a defect investigation has not been concluded. NHTSA late on Tuesday called Takata's response "disappointing," a sentiment also expressed by lawmakers during Wednesday's hearing. "We are very disappointed in Takata, refusing to work with NHTSA on the deadline for a national recall of the driver-side air bags," said Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
Takata is at the center of a global safety scandal that has involved the recall of more than 16 million cars worldwide over the past six years and been linked to at five fatalities. However, Takata and automakers have struggled to pinpoint the exact cause of the defect, and have directed a limited supply of replacement parts to regions with high humidity, which is believed to cause the air bag propellant to become more volatile.
Takata on Wednesday acknowledged that it still doesn't know exactly what has been causing the air bag malfunctions.
“Congressman, we don’t identify the root cause yet," Hiroshi Shimizu, a Takata safety executive who gave his testimony with help from an interpreter told Representative John Sarbanes. "But we are of the strong opinion that (there) is a factor contributing to this defect: which is high humidity, temperature and the life of the product.”
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