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WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - A U.S. safety regulator on Wednesday ordered Takata Corp 7312.T to preserve all air-bag inflators removed through a recall process as evidence for both a federal investigation and private litigation cases.
The move marked the first time that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has ordered a company to preserve evidence for private litigation, said Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for NHTSA.
The directive from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx also prohibits Takata from destroying or damaging any air-bag inflators except those necessary for testing. Takata is required to set aside 10 percent of recalled air-bag inflators and make them available for testing by private plaintiffs.
The defective parts, which activate the air bags in case of collision, - have been linked to at least six deaths and dozens of injuries, and have resulted in several lawsuits.
NHTSA on Friday slapped a $14,000-a-day fine on Takata for failing to fully cooperate with the government's probe. Since 2008, about 17 million vehicles with Takata air bags have been recalled. They can rupture, spraying metal fragments at occupants.
Foxx also said NHTSA would upgrade its Takata investigation to an engineering analysis, a formal step in the agency's defect investigation process.
Takata officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington and Bernie Woodall in Detroit; editing by Peter Cooney and Matthew Lewis