Takata faces $14,000 a day fines from Uncle Sam on air bag defects

Air ban maker Takata will be fined $14,000 a day by the U.S. Department of Transportation if it doesn’t comply with a federal investigation of its defective and potentially fatal airbags.Those fines will increase each day that Takata doesn’t cooperate with two orders by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requiring the manufacturer to submit information to the agency’s investigation into the defect.The NHTSA will soon begin to take depositions from Takata employees in the U.S. and Japan if the company fails to provide legally required information, according to a letter from the NHTSA’s general counsel.

The NHTSA requested documents and millions were produced but the company has repeatedly refused to explain the content of the mass of documents that it has produced, despite requests. Now Uncle Sam is getting angry and will render severe sanctions for the lack of cooperation.

The defective inflator in the air bags can explode and spray passengers with shrapnel and has been linked to six deaths worldwide.

The NHTSA ordered Takata to expand the recall of its air bags nationwide in late November, saying that the problem wasn’t limited to areas with high humidity, such as Florida or Louisiana.

More than 14 million vehicles with Takata air bags have been recalled worldwide, with most of those recalls coming just in the past year.

Takata refused, saying that it wasn’t sure data supported a nationwide recall and that expanding it too soon would take repair parts away from the regions that need them the most.

The agency formally demanded that Takata immediately submit a report that identifying a defect in the inflators and covering the entire U.S. market.

Automakers allegedly knew of the defect as early as 2008, when Honda first notified regulators of a problem with its Takata air bags. Instead, the automakers and Takata opted to not address the issue, leading to deaths stemming from the defect, court documents said.

The manufacturing defect in the air bags dates back to at least April 2000, and Takata became aware of it as early as 2001, but the defect allegedly wasn’t disclosed to federal regulators until 2008.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.