Exclusive: U.S. federal safety regulators seek Takata whistleblowers

Thu Jan 29, 2015 2:19pm EST
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By Ben Klayman and Paul Lienert

(Reuters) - U.S. vehicle safety regulators want to find whistleblowers with knowledge “of possible defects or any wrongdoing” by Takata Corp, stepping up pressure on the air bag maker whose products are linked to five deaths and dozens of injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told Reuters it was urging potential informants to call its hotline at 1-888-327-4236, promising legal protection.

"We encourage all individuals with information about the manufacture or testing of Takata air bag inflators, or who have knowledge of possible defects or any wrongdoing by the company, to make this information available to NHTSA," agency spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said.

Six former Takata employees interviewed by Reuters said they were asked to hide or alter data that showed certain parts and materials did not meet Takata’s specifications or indicated potential issues with key components such as inflators and cushions.

Two of these employees said they witnessed others hiding, altering or ignoring unfavorable test results.

Company officials last year testified at two U.S. congressional hearings, and the Japanese safety equipment maker remains the subject of at least two federal investigations and the target of dozens of lawsuits.

Asked for a comment, the company said in a statement: "Takata has a deep commitment to honesty and integrity. Since our founding in 1933, we have worked tirelessly to develop innovative and high-quality products that exceed our customers' expectations, save lives and prevent injuries. Our number one priority is the safety of the traveling public."

It added: "We are committed to working with NHTSA and our automotive customers to ensure the safety of the driving public.”   Continued...

A visitor walks past displays of Takata Corp at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai