Takata says it is subject of U.S. criminal probe on air bags

Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:12pm EST
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By Maki Shiraki and Mari Saito

TOKYO/DETROIT (Reuters) - Japan's Takata Corp (7312.T: Quote) is the subject of a U.S. criminal investigation over defective car air bags that have been linked to five deaths, a company spokesman said on Thursday.

A federal grand jury in New York has subpoenaed Takata's unit in the United States to produce documents on the air bag defects, the Tokyo-based spokesman said.

Separately, the U.S. Senate commerce committee scheduled a hearing next Thursday to solicit testimony from Takata executives on air bag defects, as well as from officials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the recall process.

Defective Takata air bag inflators have been found to explode with dangerous force in accidents, sending shards of metal into the vehicle.

An investigation by U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan into the Japanese safety-parts maker had been previously reported, but Thursday's statement is the first indication that a seated grand jury was seeking evidence.

Takata disclosed the probe in a closed-door meeting with financial analysts, according to an account from one participant.

The participant said Takata had told the analysts it was not considering adding production lines to make replacement air bag inflators, explosive devices that allow air bags to inflate in a fraction of a second during a crash.

Takata's U.S. spokesman Alby Berman told Automotive News, however, that the company is preparing to build two new production lines at its plant in Monclova, Mexico, with a January startup planned.   Continued...

Displays of Takata Corp are pictured at a showroom for vehicles in Tokyo November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai